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| 17 January, 2018

MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf moves sideways early on; Qatari banks mixed after earnings

The Qatari stock index was almost flat.

Traders watch share prices on an electronic display at the Doha Stock Exchange in Doha, Qatar June 3, 2015. .

Traders watch share prices on an electronic display at the Doha Stock Exchange in Doha, Qatar June 3, 2015. .

REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon
DUBAI - Gulf stock markets moved sideways in early trade on Wednesday with shares in top Qatari banks mixed after they reported lower-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings.

The Qatari stock index was almost flat. Qatar National Bank, the Gulf's largest lender, was up 0.7 percent after reporting a 5.2 percent increase in fourth-quarter net profit to 2.85 billion riyals ($783 million); SICO Bahrain had forecast 3.54 billion riyals, while EFG Hermes expected 3.30 billion riyals.

The bank's board recommended a cash dividend of 6 riyals per share for 2017, compared to the proposal for the previous year of 3.5 riyals per share plus a bonus share dividend which awarded one free share for every 10 owned.

But Masraf Al Rayan, Qatar's second-largest bank by market value, sank 2.4 percent after reporting a 9.6 percent drop in fourth-quarter net profit to 466 million riyals. Three analysts polled by Reuters had forecast an average 562.5 million riyals.

Medicare Group surged 4.9 percent in heavy trade to 82.30 riyals, approaching technical resistance on the July peak of 87.70 riyals. It has doubled from its November low.

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Saudi Arabia's index was almost flat after half an hour of trade. Saudi Automotive Services  rose 1.6 percent after estimating its annual net profit rose 15 percent, on an 11 percent gain in sales.

Indexes in Dubai  and Abu Dhabi were also flat.

(Reporting by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Toby Chopra) ((andrew.torchia@thomsonreuters.com)(+9715 6681 7277)(Reuters Messaging: andrew.torchia.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))