Major stock markets in the Gulf were subdued in early trade on Thursday amid U.S.-China tensions over House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan and as investors booked profits from a recent rally.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index eased 0.1%, with Banque Saudi Fransi losing 1.5%, while Bupa Arabia retreated more than 1%, after reporting a fall in quarterly profit.

The kingdom's non-oil private sector kept up a steady pace of growth in July, though slowing slightly from June, helped by increases in customer numbers, purchasing and output, a business survey showed on Wednesday.

Dubai's main share index dropped 0.4%, hit by a 1.4% fall in top lender Emirates NBD and a 1.1% decrease in blue-chip developer Emaar Properties.

In Abu Dhabi, the index fell 0.1%, with the United Arab Emirates' biggest lender, First Abu Dhabi Bank, losing 1.4%.

The Qatari benchmark was down 0.3%, driven lower by a 1.8% fall in Mesaieed Petrochemical.

China launched unprecedented live-fire military drills in six areas that ring Taiwan on Thursday, a day after Pelosi's visit.

(Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by Bradley Perrett)