Saudi Arabia's stock market rose on Wednesday, boosted by its banks and petrochemical stocks, while Dubai was lifted by a rise in its largest lender Emirates NBD after it reported strong fourth-quarter earnings.
Saudi Arabia's index rose 0.9 percent with top petrochemical producer Saudi Basic Industries adding 1.2 percent and Al Rajhi Bank increasing 0.5 percent.
The Saudi market, which will become part of the MSCI emerging market benchmark this year, has started the year on a positive note, up 7.6 percent year-to-date.
Foreign selling, which accelerated in the second half of 2018, is also showing signs of easing.
Saudi exchange data released on Sunday showed foreigners were net buyers of 1.03 billion riyals ($274.60 million) of stocks last week, up from the 134.3 miilion riyals of stocks foreigners bought the week before.
Riyad Bank continued to rise, adding 2.5 percent. The lender had picked Goldman Sachs to advise on its merger talks with National Commercial Bank (NCB), Reuters reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. NCB added 0.4 percent.
In Dubai, the index gained 0.4 percent, after three straight sessions of losses.
Emirates NBD, Dubai's largest bank, gained 2.2 percent after reporting a 10 percent rise in its fourth-quarter net profit as loan growth and improved margins offset lower income from investment securities and higher expenses.
GFH Financial Group, whose primary listing is on the Bahrain stock exchange, added 3.3 percent after saying it acquired Westside Office Business Park in the UK, adding the firm along with clients would invest up to 39.2 million pounds ($50.4 million).
However, Developer DAMAC Properties dropped 1.6 percent, having plunged nearly 10 percent in the last session after BofA Merrill Lynch downgraded the stock to 'underperform' from 'neutral'.
The Abu Dhabi indexinched up 0.1 percent. Energy firm Dana Gas jumped 5 percent ahead of results from its board meeting on Wednesday, where it plans to discuss, among other things, its operations in Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Qatar's index was flat with Qatar Gas Transport increasing 2.8 percent.
Qatar Islamic Bank slipped 0.7 percent ahead of full-year earnings announcement later on Wednesday. ($1 = 0.7772 pounds)
(Reporting by Shakeel Ahmad in Bengaluru Editing by Keith Weir) ((firstname.lastname@example.org;))