MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi flat early on, cement shares lose ground

Najran Cement gained 0.9% as Northern Region cement slipped 1.0%

DUBAI - Saudi Arabia's stock marke I was flat in early trade on Tuesday as some cement shares, which had surged in recent days on hopes that the 2018 state budget would boost infrastructure spending, lost ground.

Najran Cement gained 0.9 percent as Northern Region cement slipped 1.0 percent.

The budget will be announced after the market closes on Tuesday and is expected to feature a moderate increase in spending as the government seeks to lift flagging economic growth.

On Monday, Saad al-Shahrani, general director of the finance ministry's macro-fiscal policy unit, said the ministry would announce a "budget of expansion and development and investment".

Dubai's index edged down 0.1 percent as builder Drake & Scull, the most heavily traded stock, added 1.8 percent. The company does business in Saudi Arabia.

Qatar's index gained 1.0 percent as real estate firm Ezdan Holding jumped 6.1 percent.

It plunged 57 percent between the start of 2017 and mid-November, partly because of a weak Qatari property market. But it has recovered strongly since then, supported by news that a shareholder has filed a suit to block the firm's plan to go private.

Barwa Real Estate climbed 3.1 percent after saying it signed a 27-year contract with the government to lease two plots of land on which it would develop a residential area for foreign workers.

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

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