Saudi stocks rose on Thursday after the kingdom relaxed its limit on foreign share ownership, and other Gulf markets gained after falling in recent sessions amid political concerns.
Saudi's stock index was up 0.6% in early trade with banks leading the gains. Arab National Bank rose 7% and Al Rajhi Bank added 0.7%.
Saudi Arabia has relaxed a 49% limit for foreign strategic investors in a company's shares, aiming to attract foreign funds as the Kingdom opens up the region's largest market.
Insurers Aljazira Takaful Taawuni and Solidarity Saudi Takaful rose 3.7% and 5.2% respectively after they signed a memorandum of understanding to evaluate their merger in a share swap deal. If the merger goes through, new shares will be issued by Aljazira to Solidarity shareholders.
Kuwait's index gained 0.3% a day after MSCI Inc said it would upgrade Kuwaiti equities to its main emerging markets index in 2020.
The MSCI move could attract inflows of around $5 billion into Kuwaiti stocks, said Othman al-Essa, vice chairman of Kuwait's Capital Market Authority's board.
Kuwait has outperformed its Gulf peers in anticipation of the MSCI move, gaining nearly 21% this year.
In Dubai, the index was up 0.6%, boosted by real estate and banking shares. Emirates NBD Bank rose 1.8% and developer Emaar Properties gained 0.9%.
Qatar's index traded 0.3% higher as petrochemical maker Industries Qatar and Qatar Islamic Bank each rose 0.6%. Industries Qatar split its stock on Wednesday.
A 10-to-one stock split for companies on the exchange is being phased in from June 9, in a bid to boost liquidity by encouraging smaller investors to buy shares.
The Abu Dhabi index edged up 0.1% with food company Agthia Group climbing 2.7% and Sharjah Islamic Bank adding 1.9%.
(Reporting by Shakeel Ahmad in Bengaluru, editing by Larry King) ((firstname.lastname@example.org;))