DUBAI, April 6 (Reuters) - Gulf shares were marginally lower on Thursday amid caution from investors ahead of companies reporting first quarter results. Dubai insurance
companies made strong gains by the close, lifted by investor bets on good results from the sector and market speculation on consolidation.
Dar Al Takaful Insurance jumped 14.84 percent at the closing bell, while Dubai Islamic Insurance and Re-insurance was up 9.64 percent. Islamic Arab Insurance rose 3.21 percent.
"We noticed the gains are happening across most of the insurance companies, mostly in Dubai. It could be driven by better Q1 expectations of results for the sector, or because of the compulsory insurance in Dubai," said Mohammed Ali Yasin, the chief executive officer of NBAD Securities.
"There is also some market chatter that there could be some consolidation in the sector this year," he said.
Dubai Health Authority announced at the end of March that 99 percent of residents were now covered by its new mandatory health insurance plan.
Declines in Dubai on the wider market were led by budget carrier Air Arabia , which was down 1.79 percent. Dubai Financial Market Company, the listed shares of the bourse, was down 1.55 percent. At the close, the Dubai Financial Market
General Index was down 0.19 percent at the close.
In Abu Dhabi, the declines were led by telecommunications, property and banks.
Etisalat , which has the highest weighting on the index, was down 0.82 percent.
Aldar Properties declined 0.44 percent, while RAK Properties lost 1.52 percent. Abu Dhabi-listed Bank of Sharjah lost 0.72 percent, while National Bank of Abu Dhabi lost 0.88 percent.
Saudi Arabian stocks rose on Thursday amid investor bets that the kingdom was making solid progress towards an inclusion into MSCI's emerging markets index.
"This is benefiting the market as a whole in terms of sentiment," said Marwan Shurrab, head of high net worth and retail equities brokage at AlRamz Capital.
Dar Al Arkan declined 0.8 percent after it said it raised $500 million, the fourth tranche of its international sukuk programme.
Trading was mostly focused on Saudi Basic Industries Corp , which rose 1 percent, as 422.77 million riyals worth of shares changed hands.
The Saudi Tadawul All-Share Index rose 0.35 percent.
Elsewhere in the region, Kuwait's measure declined 0.42 percent, while Qatar's benchmark slipped 0.1 percent.
* The index rose 0.35 percent to 7,075.57 points.
* The index lost 0.19 percent to 3,566.35 points.
* The index lost 0.55 percent to 4,615.23 points.
* The index lost 0.1 percent to 10,466.99 points.
* The index declined 0.42 percent to 7,029.80 points.
* The index edged up 0.21 percent to 1,353.36 points.
* The index declined 1.44 percent to 13,098.54 points.
($1 = 3.7502 riyals)
(Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh; Editing by Alison Williams) ((Hadeel.AlSayegh@thomsonreuters.com; +971566883310;))