The Saudi stock market rose on Thursday as nearly all its banks surged ahead of earnings announcements, while Egypt dropped sharply with most blue-chips declining.
The Saudi index gained 0.7% with 10 of its 11 banks rising. Riyad Bank 1010.SE rose 1.6% and Banque Saudi Fransi 1050.SE added 0.6% before both go ex-dividend in the next trading session. Investors will be entitled to the next dividend pay-out as of Thursday.
Saudi banks are expected to report strong second-quarter earnings. Investment bank EFG Hermes forecast 7.6% growth year-on-year in second-quarter profit for Saudi Arabia's financial sector.
Saudi Enaya Cooperative Insurance 8311.SE surged 1.9% after it won a medical insurance contract worth over 5% of its revenue last year.
Egypt's blue-chip index decreased 1.4% as most of its shares turned red, with Commercial International Bank shedding 1.6% and Ezz Steel slumping 7.7% after swinging to a first quarter loss earlier this week.
Exchange data on Thursday showed non-Arab foreigners were net sellers of Egyptian stocks.
In Qatar, the index reversed course to rise 0.6% with Qatar Insurance up 3.1%, while Qatar Gas Transport (Nakilat) rose 2.2% after posting 7% growth in first-half net profit.
The Gulf's largest bank, Qatar National Bank (QNB) , edged up 0.2% after the lender reported a 4% increase in first-half net profit.
The Abu Dhabi index increased 0.5%, with First Abu Dhabi Bank, the country's largest lender, ending 1.1% higher and Aldar Properties up 2%.
On Wednesday, the property developer was awarded 5 billion dirhams ($1.36 billion) of development projects from the Abu Dhabi government.
Kuwait's index closed 0.1% higher, as National Bank of Kuwait NBKK.KW gained 1.1% and Mobile Telecommunications Co rose 1.9%.
The index ended the session in positive territory for the eleventh straight session, triggered by MSCI's decision to move Kuwaiti equities to its main emerging-market index in 2020.
Kuwait has outperformed its Gulf peers in anticipation of the MSCI move and is up more than 28% year-to-date.
The Dubai index eased 0.1% after rising as much as 0.6% earlier in the day, hurt by a 2.5% fall in Emaar Malls and a 0.4% drop in Emaar Properties .
($1 = 3.6728 UAE dirham)
(Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by Kirsten Donovan) ((AteeqUr.Shariff@thomsonreuters.com; +918067497129;))