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| 18 December, 2017

MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi edges up before budget on back of cement firms

The Saudi stock index was 0.4% higher after half an hour

Image used for illustrative purpose.
A trader monitors stocks at a Saudi Bank in Dammam October 26, 2008.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A trader monitors stocks at a Saudi Bank in Dammam October 26, 2008.

REUTERS/Stringer
DUBAI - Saudi Arabia's stock market edged up in early trade on Monday as cement firms climbed before the release of the government's 2018 budget after the close on Tuesday.

The Saudi stock index was 0.4 percent higher after half an hour. Cement firms accounted for four of the 10 most heavily traded stocks with Najran Cement jumping 5.2 percent, after a 4.5 percent gain on Sunday.

But builder Khodari, which had surged 7.6 percent on Sunday, fell back 1.1 percent.

Analysts generally expect a moderate increase in spending in the 2018 budget and for the pace of deficit-cutting to slow considerably as the government focuses more on supporting growth; infrastructure spending may rise after two years of austerity.

This looks unlikely to produce a strong economic recovery next year, given the introduction of 5 percent value-added tax at the start of next month and the government's plan to announce fuel price hikes in the first quarter of 2018.

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Nevertheless, the construction industry could start to recover; accelerating housing construction is one of the government's priorities. Shaker 1214.SE , which as an air conditioner and appliance distributor could benefit from faster home building, rose 1.9 percent.

In Dubai, the index was flat in very quiet trade. Abu Dhabi rose 0.2 percent as ADNOC Distribution, which listed last week after an initial public offer of shares at 2.50 dirhams, was the most heavily traded stock and climbed 2.3 percent to 2.73 dirhams.

Markets in Qatar and Bahrain .BAX were closed for public holidays.

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