DUBAI- Middle East stock markets reversed earlier gains and closed in negative territory on Sunday, hit by profit-taking and disappointing quarterly results from some companies, with trading thin ahead of Ramadan.
The Saudi index was the worst hit in the Gulf, losing 1.7 percent, pulled down by heavyweight names in the banking and petrochemical sectors.
"We continue to play the banking sector through Al Rajhi Bank, National Commercial Bank, Saudi British Bank, and Bank Aljazira, which have all delivered stellar results in Q1," Dubai-based Arqaam Capital said in a research note.
"However, upsides to FVe (fair valuation estimates) have almost been closed, while earnings growth should slow in the coming quarters as Saibor (the Saudi interbank rate) has stabilized."
Blue-chip Saudi Basic Industries Corp lost 1 percent, while Saudi Kayan Petrochemical Co shed 1.7 percent, despite an increase in oil prices at the end of last week.
In Dubai, where the index shed 0.2 percent, Islamic Arab Insurance rose 14.9 percent and was the day's most heavily traded stock on the exchange.
Dubai Islamic Bank was the second most traded, adding 1.4 percent.
The Abu Dhabi index lost 0.3 percent, pulled down by RAK Properties, which dropped 4.5 percent on lower first-quarter profits.
Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank lost 0.9 percent after it merged last week with Union National Bank and Al Hilal Bank to create a banking heavyweight with 423 billion dirhams ($115.2 billion) in assets, the third biggest in the United Arab Emirates.
In Egypt, where the index lost 2.4 percent, Orascom Investment Holding posted the highest volume and dropped 0.7 percent.
Real estate company Emaar Misr for Development (EMFD) fell 3.2 percent after reporting a 17 percent drop in Q1 earnings.
"2019 started slow for EMFD after a robust performance last quarter for sales and handovers, which might not be exceeded or met this year," Arqaam Capital said in a separate note.
($1 = 3.6730 UAE dirham)
(Reporting by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Dale Hudson) ((Davide.Barbuscia@thomsonreuters.com; +971522604297; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))