MIDEAST STOCKS-Markets may keep firm tone, UAE bank merger talks in focus

Regional stock markets may keep a firm tone on Thursday after they rebounded on Wednesday from several days of weakness

  
DUBAI - Regional stock markets may keep a firm tone on Thursday after they rebounded on Wednesday from several days of weakness, while the possibility of bank mergers could be a focus of trade in the United Arab Emirates.

In Dubai, Emaar Properties recovered 2.6 percent on Wednesday as the debut of its unit Emaar Development, although weak, turned out to be not as weak as some had feared. Emaar Properties confirmed major technical support at 7.60 dirhams so a further rebound would not be surprising.

Sources told Reuters that Abu Dhabi-listed Bank of Sharjah and Invest Bank were in merger talks that could create an institution with about 50.6 billion dirhams ($13.8 billion) of assets.

The stocks are usually very thinly traded, but the news could revive speculation about possible mergers in the UAE banking industry.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan is up 0.15 percent after minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's last meeting suggested the Fed might be more cautious than expected in raising interest rates next year, though a rate hike next month still looks almost certain. Brent oil  has dipped 16 cents to $63.16 a barrel.

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