Stock markets in the Gulf were mixed in early trade on Thursday ahead of key U.S. inflation data, which is likely to set the tone for rate cut expectations.

The Fed's preferred inflation gauge, the personal consumer expenditures (PCE) price index, is due later in the day, and investors signalled caution after dialling back bets for the first rate cut to June.

At the start of the year, wagers were on the Fed cutting rates in March. Most Gulf currencies are pegged to the dollar, and Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia usually follow any monetary policy change in the United States.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index gained 0.2%, led by a nearly 30% surge in Avalon Pharma, rising for a third consecutive session after listing. During the first three days of trade, the Saudi Exchange allows 30% fluctuation limits.

In Abu Dhabi, the index dropped 0.3%. Abu Dhabi's bourse faced a decline today and continued to hover around its October support level. Geopolitical tensions and oil market uncertainty could continue to dampen market sentiment. Still, a potential rebound or improvement in these areas could lead to a strong recovery, said Joseph Dahrieh, Managing Principal at Tickmill.

Oil prices - a catalyst for the Gulf's financial markets - were little changed as investors kept their powder dry ahead of U.S. data expected to offer further clues on the outlook for interest rates.

Dubai's main share index added 0.4%, with sharia-compliant lender Dubai Islamic Bank rising 1.3%.

The Qatari benchmark slipped 0.1%, hit by a 1.8% fall in telecoms firm Ooredoo.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt's blue-chip index was up 0.3%, with tobacco monopoly Eastern Company advancing 6.7%.

  • SAUDI ARABIA rose 0.2% to 12,631
  • ABU DHABI fell 0.3% to 9,255
  • DUBAI gained 0.4% to 4,309
  • QATAR eased 0.1% to 10,475
  • EGYPT up 0.3% to 28,964
  • BAHRAIN dropped 1% to 2,005
  • OMAN added 0.5% to 4,555
  • KUWAIT was up 0.4% to 8,159

(Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by Tasim Zahid)