Saudi Arabia's stock exchange was steady in early trading on Monday, ahead of its entry to the FTSE Russell's emerging market index in a little more than two weeks, while most major Gulf markets slipped.

Saudi Arabia's main index as flat, with petrochemical investor Alujain rising 2.1 percent after providing an update on a fire in its affiliate's plant. The firm said it expects the plant to start operating in the first half from Oct. 2019.

Saudi Arabia's stock exchange expects passive fund inflows of $15 billion to $20 billion this year as it gears up for inclusion in emerging market benchmarks, its chief executive told Reuters on Thursday.

Saudi stocks will become the largest Middle East market in the FTSE Emerging Index with an overall weighting of 2.7 percent, according to the index-compiler FTSE Russell.

The Dubai stock market edged down 0.4 percent, with five of its six property firms falling.

Union Properties was down 1.3 percent and Emaar Properties fell 0.8 percent.

Dubai's index is up 4.5 percent his year, lifted by strong fourth-quarter results at real estate firms, but an expected further fall in property prices is capping gains.

Although Dubai was one of the worst performing markets globally last year, fund managers expressed optimism in the UAE, with more than half of 11 asked in February saying they would increase their allocations to the country, according to a Reuters poll.

Abu Dhabi's index fell 0.5 percent, pulled down by financial stocks.

Sharjah Islamic Bank was the top loser, plunging 10 percent in light trade, while Abu Dhabi National Energy lost 1 percent.

The Qatar index rose 0.4 percent, led by a 2.2 percent gain in Mesaieed Petrochemical and a 1.5 percent increase in Qatar Insurance Co.

The Qatar exchange, which jumped 21 percent in 2018, was one of the world's best-performing markets for the year after limits were lifted on foreign ownership of shares.

But the index has experienced a spate of selling this month, with investors looking to allocate money to other regional markets that offer better valuations.


(Reporting by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan in Bengaluru; Editing by Kirsten Donovan) ((; within U.S.+1 646 223 8780; outside U.S. +91 80 6749 2733; Reuters Messaging: