Most stock markets in the Gulf ended higher on Thursday, with the Saudi index reaching its highest level since mid-2006, while the Egyptian bourse retreated due to a selloff in blue-chips.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index advanced 1%, buoyed by a 5.4% rise in Riyad Bankand a 1.5% increase in Saudi National Bank.

The Saudi market was supported by the high price levels in oil markets, according to Farah Mourad, Senior Market Analyst of XTB MENA.

"Additionally, the market could see strong support this year as the Saudi wealth fund is planning to invest $10 billion into local equities," Mourad said.

Separately, the kingdom is planning to auction up to three mining licences in 2022, including Khnaiguiyah mines where zinc and copper deposits are estimated at around 26 million tonnes, the kingdom's mining minister said on Wednesday. 

In Abu Dhabi, the index added 0.7%, led by a 1.8% gain in the country's largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank .

Dubai's main share index firmed 0.2%, helped by a 1.1% rise in Emirates NBD Bank.

Crude prices, a key catalyst for the Gulf's financial markets, steadied near 2-month highs with Brent crude trading near $85 a barrel buoyed by expectations that a strong economic recovery will boost demand.

However, a rise in U.S. inventories and high inflation capped gains.

The Qatari index climbed 1.3%, as most of the stocks on the index were in positive territory including Qatar Islamic Bank QISB.QA , which was up 2.7%.

Qatar's economy grew 2.6% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, according to official estimates, driven mainly by the non-hydrocarbon sector. 

Outside the Gulf, Egypt's blue-chip index fell 0.4%, hit by a 2.2% fall in investment bank EFG Hermes .

The Egyptian stock market fell today after it recorded some important increases during the last few weeks as investors move to secure their gains. Overall, the market could see some price corrections but remains on positive footing, said Mourad.

(Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri) ((; +918061822788;))