Stock markets in the Gulf ended mixed on Wednesday on rising tensions in the region and ahead of the release minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's January meeting. Minutes of the Fed's last meeting will be assessed by markets for any further clues on when the U.S. central bank will start its easing cycle.

Most Gulf currencies are pegged to the dollar, and any monetary policy change in the United States is usually mimicked by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index gained 0.2%, closing at an 18-month high, on the back of a 1.1% gain in the country's biggest lender Saudi National Bank. In Abu Dhabi, the index eased 0.1%, hit by a 1.1% fall in First Abu Dhabi Bank and a 0.4% decrease in the United Arab Emirates telecoms group e& after reporting a fall in fourth-quarter net profit.

Dubai's main share index dropped 0.5%, snapping a nine-day winning streak, weighed down by a 2.2% fall in top lender Emirates NBD. A vessel sustained "superficial damage" after being hit by a drone in the Red Sea, 60 nautical miles north of Djibouti, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said on Monday.

The Iran-aligned Yemeni Houthis have carried out repeated drone and missile strikes since November in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war.

The United States on Tuesday again vetoed a draft United Nations Security Council resolution on the Israel-Hamas war, blocking a demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. The Qatari benchmark finished 0.6% higher, led by a 1.6% rise in petrochemical maker Industries Qatar. The Qatari stock market rose, building on its positive momentum from earlier in the week, amid positive performances across the banking sector, said George Khoury, Global Head of Education and Research at CFI.

"The market's upward trajectory could remain exposed to the geopolitical tensions in the region and uncertain energy prices," Khoury added. Outside the Gulf, Egypt's blue-chip index was down 0.1%.

  • SAUDI ARABIA rose 0.2% to 12,634
  • ABU DHABI fell 0.1% to 9,389
  • DUBAI down 0.5% to 4,255
  • QATAR gained 0.6% to 10,365
  • EGYPT lost 0.1% to 29,292
  • BAHRAIN added 0.1% to 2,050
  • OMAN was flat at 4,579
  • KUWAIT gained 0.4% to 8,135

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