Most stock markets in the Gulf ended lower on Wednesday as Israel intensified strikes across Gaza and the army ordered fresh evacuations in the north of the enclave. Israel has procured tens of thousands of tents for Palestinian civilians it intends to evacuate from Rafah in the coming weeks ahead of a promised assault on the city it sees as the last bastion of militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Israeli sources said on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index dropped 1%, hit by a 3.4% fall in ACWA Power and a 1.2% decrease in the country's biggest lender Saudi National Bank. Saudi Arabia's economy will grow at a slower pace this year than previously predicted as oil prices drop from recent peaks, according to a Reuters poll which also showed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) expanding at the fastest clip in the region.

The Saudi stock market extended its decline for another trading session. Geopolitical tensions and declining oil prices continue to weigh on the market, said George Khoury Global Head of Education and Research at CFI.

Meanwhile, the kingdom's monarch Salman bin Abdulaziz has been admitted to a hospital in Jeddah for a routine check up for a few hours, state television reported on Wednesday. In Abu Dhabi, the index eased 0.1%.

Oil prices were down slightly, with Brent at $88.02 on a surprise fall in U.S. crude stocks and a drop in business activity in the world's largest oil consumer. The Qatari benchmark dropped 0.5%, weighed down by a 1% decline in Qatar Islamic Bank.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt's blue-chip index retreated 3.2%, as most of its constituents were in negative territory including top lender Commercial International Bank. Egypt's economy will grow slower than previously expected this year after it signed an $8 billion financial support package with the IMF that came with conditions, but growth will accelerate next year, a Reuters poll forecast on Tuesday.

  • SAUDI ARABIA declined 1% to 12,356
  • ABU DHABI down 0.1% to 9,045
  • DUBAI ended flat at 4,167
  • QATAR lost 0.5% to 9,666
  • EGYPT down 3.2% to 25,918
  • BAHRAIN dropped 0.2% to 2,013
  • OMAN rose 0.2% to 4,707
  • KUWAIT eased 0.2% to 7,705

(Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter)