Saudi Arabia's stock market rose on Wednesday on the back of its banks as rising oil prices lifted most major Gulf markets, while Egypt was partly dragged down by its biggest lender Commercial International Bank
Brent oil hit a 2019 high above $72 a barrel on Wednesday, propelled by steady economic growth in China and a fall in U.S. crude stocks.
Saudi's index rose 1.1 percent for its biggest one-day gain in two and a half months, with 11 of its 12 banks advancing. Al Rajhi Bank added 2.3 percent and the kingdom's largest lender National Commercial Bank gained 2.2 percent.
Saudi Arabia's banks are expected to report 7 percent higher earnings for the first quarter, SICO Research said in a note.
The bourse has gained 17.9 percent so far this year as foreign buyers rushed in ahead of and after its entry into the FTSE Russell's emerging market index on March 18. Foreign investors have been net buyers of Saudi stocks every week this year.
Riyad REIT gained 0.4 percent after it acquired a 40 percent stake in the leasehold interest of an office building in the United States. The investment is expected to generate a net yield of more than 8 percent for its shareholders, the company said.
Egypt's blue-chip index slipped 0.7 percent, weighed down by a 1.1 percent drop in Commercial International Bank and a 2.8 percent fall in El Sewedy Electric.
Following recent political upheaval in Sudan, El Sewedy said its business exposure to Sudan amounted to around 1.1 percent of its profit as of last year.
Qalaa Holdings also slid 1.1 percent after saying that ongoing events in Sudan impacted its cement plant operations for a day.
In Dubai, the index was up 0.8 percent as Dubai Islamic Bank gained 1.2 percent.
All real estate shares rose with blue-chip developer Emaar Properties gaining 0.8 percent and DAMAC Properties climbing 3.1 percent.
Dubai's Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for March came in at 57.6, a 10-month high reading, Al Mal Capital said in a note.
The improvement in non-oil business activity was led by the travel and tourism industry and wholesale and retail. But the construction industry was the weakest in 28 months as new orders subsided, the note said.
Growth in the United Arab Emirates' non-oil sector picked up in March after slowing to a 28-month low last month, a survey showed on Sunday.
The Abu Dhabi index was up 0.5 percent with energy firm Dana Gas adding 2.9 percent and market heavyweight First Abu Dhabi Bank increasing 0.6 percent.
Last week, the bank obtained regulatory approval to increase its foreign ownership limit to 40 percent from a previous limit of 25 percent.
Qatar's index also gained 0.5 percent with petrochemical shares increasing. Industries Qatar was up 1.2 percent while Mesaieed Petrochemical Holding traded 4.5 percent higher.
(Reporting by Shakeel Ahmad in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris) ((firstname.lastname@example.org;))