The Saudi stock market rose in early trade on Thursday as most of its banks gained, while other major markets were mixed.

Saudi Arabia's index was up 0.3% with Al Rajhi Bank, the sharia-compliant lender, adding 0.7% and Riyad Bank was up 1.6%.

Fitch in a note said profitability improved in 2018 at Saudi Islamic banks as these benefited from stronger growth opportunities but asset-quality challenges continued.

However, capital buffers and profitability will remain sufficient to absorb a mild deterioration in asset quality, the brokerage added.

Dubai's index traded 0.4% up with Emirates NBD rising a further 1.1%, extending gains for the fourth straight session.

On Monday, the lender had soared 14.9%, reaching its highest level since October 2007, following the bank's announcement it would raise the foreign ownership limit to 20% from 5% with immediate effect. The lender also said it intends to raise that limit to 40% in future.

But, blue-chip developer Emaar Properties slipped 0.2% extending losses for a third day in a row.

The realtor's chairman said he did not expect a change in the company's business after Dubai's ruler set up a new real estate committee to regulate and control market supply.

On Monday, Dubai set up a real estate planning commission to regulate projects and avoid competition between semi-government and private firms, in a move designed to address the property market slump.

However, Dubai house prices will decline sharply this year and next, according to property market experts in a Reuters poll, who said a slowdown in the economy and an oversupply of housing units are big downside risks to their already weak outlook.

In Abu Dhabi, the index traded flat with Emirates Telecommunications losing 0.5%.

Qatari index lost 0.3% with Qatar Islamic Bank declining 1.5% and Qatar National Bank, the Gulf's largest lender by assets, dropping 1%.

(Reporting by Maqsood Alam in Bengaluru; Editing by Alison Williams) ((;))