Major stocks in the Gulf region strengthened on Monday, bucking the global trend, as shares in non-oil sectors took centre stage with markets in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) primarily driving the gains.
The non-oil sector in the Middle East's tourism and business hub Dubai returned to growth in December, although the expansion was modest as employment fell and sentiment for the new year was subdued, the seasonally adjusted HIS Markit Dubai Purchasing Managers' Index survey showed.
Dubai has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis and its economy is expected to have contracted by 6.2% in 2020.
Dubai's main share index tacked on 0.9%, driven mainly by a 1.8% gain in the emirate's biggest bank Emirates NBD. Sharia-compliant lender Dubai Islamic Bank also advanced, adding 0.8%.
In Abu Dhabi, the benchmark firmed 1.2%, helped by a more than 2% gain in UAE's largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) .
Real estate firm Aldar Properties was also among the top performers in the benchmark, gaining 1.9%.
Saudi Arabia's benchmark index finished the session up 0.6%, buoyed by a 0.7% rise in lender Al Rajhi Bank
Most cement producers firmed on the day after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled plans on Sunday to build a zero-carbon city at NEOM, the first major construction project for the $500 billion flagship business zone aimed at diversifying the economy of the world's largest oil exporter.
Saudi Cement put on 2.6%, while Tabuk Cement finished 6.2% higher and Yanbu Cement added 4.5%.
The Qatari index gained for a third consecutive session, tacking on 1.1%.
The Gulf's biggest lender Qatar National Bank firmed 1.2% and was the best performer on the benchmark.
Outside the Gulf, Egypt's prime index added 0.6%, led by a 1.7% gain in Commercial International Bank, the country's largest private bank.
(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru Editing by Mark Heinrich) ((email@example.com; +91 (0)8061822683;))