Most stock markets in the Gulf rose in early trade on Wednesday, rebounding from a sell-off triggered by comments from Moderna's chief executive that existing COVID-19 vaccines would be less effective against the new Omicron variant.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index rose 0.7%, with Al Rajhi Bank advancing 2.1% and petrochemical maker Industries Qatar putting on 1.3%.

Elsewhere, Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair gained 1.7% after signing master franchise agreements with U.S. fast-food group Subway and Lebanese patisserie Secrets. 

Oil prices, a key catalyst for the Gulf's financial markets, rose more than 3%, as major producers prepared to discuss how to respond to the threat of a hit to fuel demand from the Omicron variant.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will meet on Wednesday after 1300 GMT and ahead of a meeting on Thursday of OPEC+, which groups OPEC with allies including Russia. 

While some analysts expect OPEC+ to pause plans to add 400,000 barrels per day of supply in January in light of the potential hit to demand from travel curbs to rein in the spread of the Omicron variant, several OPEC+ ministers have said there was no need to change course.

The EU drug regulator said on Tuesday it could approve vaccines adapted to target the Omicron variant within three to four months if needed, but that existing shots would continue to provide protection. 

In Qatar, the benchmark index rose 0.9%, buoyed by a 2.6% jump in sharia-compliant lender Masraf Al Rayan, following the completion of merger with Al Khalij Commercial Bank.

** Markets in the United Arab Emirates were closed for a public holiday.


(Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu) ((; +918061822788;))