Mideast Stocks: Major markets finish stronger on higher oil prices

Al-Rajhi leads Saudi benchmark gains

A Saudi trader observes the stock market on monitors at Falcom stock exchange agency in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 7, 2018.

A Saudi trader observes the stock market on monitors at Falcom stock exchange agency in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 7, 2018.

REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Major Gulf markets ended higher on Wednesday on higher oil prices as a weakening dollar and progress on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines helped crude climb above $51 a barrel.

The positive sentiment was also aided by U.S. congressional leaders expressing optimism about a stimulus deal. 

Brent crude futures rose 25 cents, or 0.5%, to $51.01 a barrel by 1017 GMT, but the gains were capped by a surprise gain in U.S. crude inventories and tighter coronavirus lockdowns in Europe.

The movement in oil prices is a key catalyst for the Gulf region's financial markets.

The Saudi benchmark firmed 0.7%, with lender Al-Rajhi leading the gains, putting on 1.1%. Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC), the world's fourth-biggest petrochemicals firm, advanced 2.2% after it proposed a second-half dividend of 1.5 riyal per share.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia announced a 990 billion riyal ($263.91 billion) budget for 2021, around 7% less than estimated spending for this year, as the world's biggest oil exporter seeks to tame a huge deficit caused by lower petroleum revenues and the coronavirus crisis. 

Dubai's main share index strengthened 0.4%, helped by a 0.9% gain in top lender Emirates NBD, while property stock Damac Properties put on 3.4%.

The Abu Dhabi index also added 0.4%, bolstered mainly by a 0.6% gain each in telecoms firm Etisalat  and the country's largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank.

In Qatar, the index ended the session little changed. The Gulf's biggest lender Qatar National Bank was the biggest loser in the benchmark, shedding 1.4%.

Among gainers on the Qatar index, Qatar Islamic Bank  firmed 2%, while Qatar Commercial Bank tacked on 1.4%.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt's benchmark fell 0.7%. Commercial International Bank (CIB) slipped 0.7%, while real estate stock Talat Mostafa Group Holding declined 2.4%.

CIB, Egypt's largest private bank, increased its loan loss provisions by 60% in the third quarter after a central bank review raised compliance concerns that led to the dismissal of its chairman. 

The Bahrain market is closed on Wednesday and Thursday for National Day holidays.

(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil and Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru Editing by Alexandra Hudson) ((abyjose.koilparambil@thomsonreuters.com; +91 (0)8061822683;))

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