Major Gulf bourses mixed on rate hike uncertainty; Egypt surges
Feb 9 (Reuters) - Saudi and Qatar stock markets fell on Thursday as expectations of higher interest rates in the United States dampened investor sentiment, while the Egyptian index outperformed the region on government plans to sell stakes in 32 firms over the next year.
Federal Reserve officials on Wednesday said interest rates are set to go higher as the U.S. central bank presses forward with its efforts to cool inflation.
Saudi Arabia's benchmark stock index (.TASI) fell 0.9%, dragged down by losses in the materials and banking sectors.
The world's largest Islamic lender, Al Rajhi Bank (1120.SE) dropped 1.8%, while Dr Sulaiman Al-Habib Medical Services (4013.SE) fell 1.2%.
The Qatari stock market (.QSI) settled 0.7% lower around a two-year low, extending losses as natural gas prices fell.
The Gulf's largest lender Qatar National Bank (QNBK.QA) dropped 2.8%, while Fuel retailer Qatar Fuel (QFLS.QA) was down 2.1%.
Egypt's blue-chip index (.EGX30) surged 3.9% to hit a more than 4-year high after the government announced plans to sell stakes in 32 companies by the end of the first quarter of 2024.
Ahmed Negm, Head of Market Research MENA at XS.com, said the sales could help attract large numbers of foreign investors and help keep the main index at elevated levels.
Gains in utilities and banking sector stocks lifted Dubai's main index (.DFMGI) by 0.8%.
State-run utility firm Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWAA.DU) jumped 2.1% after reporting a 22% rise in full year net profit to 8 billion dirhams ($2.18 billion), beating market estimates of 7.44 billion dirhams.
Abu Dhabi's benchmark index (.FTFADGI) edged up 0.1% as it recovered from early losses helped by a 1.5% rise in Conglomerate Alpha Dhabi Holding (ALPHADHABI.AD)
UAE's largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB.AD) reversed course to end 0.1% higher following media reports that the lender could renew a potential offer for Britain's Standard Chartered (STAN.L), once lock-up rules from its previous aborted bid expire.
($1 = 3.6730 UAE dirham)
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