Major bourses in the Gulf ended mixed on Wednesday, knocked by tensions in the region after the seizure of an oil product tanker, although an easing of UAE travel curbs boosted the Dubai index.
On Tuesday, three maritime security sources claimed Iranian-backed forces seized an oil product tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Iran denied the reports.
"The latest news about an oil tanker being seized by Iran-backed forces increases tension levels and the likelihood that oil prices could climb and stock markets could slip," said Daniel Takieddine, senior market analyst at FXPrimus.
Brent crude oil futures, however, were down 1.8%, or $1.30, to $71.11 a barrel by 0122 GMT, as the spread of the coronavirus Delta variant in top consuming countries outweighed the impact of Mideast geopolitical tensions and a fall in U.S. inventories.
Saudi Arabia's benchmark index dropped 0.4%, with Al Rajhi Bank losing 0.5%, while Savola Group declined 4.5%.
The food retailer reported a second-quarter net profit of 200 million riyals ($53.33 million) down from 409.6 million riyals year ago.
The kingdom's foreign minister said on Tuesday he saw an emboldened Iran acting in a negative manner around the Middle East, endangering shipping, arming Yemen's Houthis and contributing to political deadlock in Lebanon.
In Abu Dhabi, the index lost 0.4%, pressured by a 1.2% fall in the country's largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank.
The main share index in Dubai, the Middle East's travel and tourism hub, advanced 0.6%, with Dubai Islamic Bank DISB.DU advancing 2.8%.
Dubai's state airport operator expects a surge in passenger traffic over the coming weeks and months, its chief executive said on Wednesday, after the United Arab Emirates announced an easing of travel restrictions from African and Asian countries.
The Gulf state, a major international travel hub, on Tuesday said it would lift a ban on transit flights, including from major market India.
Elsewhere, budget airliner Air Arabia was up 0.7%.
The Qatari benchmark added 0.1%, helped by a 0.6% increase in Qatar National Bank.
Outside the Gulf, Egypt's blue-chip index eased 0.1%, hit by a 2.8% fall in Fawry for Banking Technology and Electronic.
($1 = 3.7501 riyals)
(Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; editing by Barbara lewis) ((AteeqUr.Shariff@thomsonreuters.com; +918061822788;))