DUBAI - Most Gulf stock markets were flat to slightly higher early on Monday, pausing after they rallied on the previous day because of hopes that the Western military attack on Syria would not escalate into a wider conflict. But Saudi Arabia extended its gains on the back of financials.
The Saudi index was up 0.5 percent in the first half-hour. Insurance firm BUPA Arabia gained 4.0 percent after it recommended an increase in capital to 1.2 billion riyals ($320 million) from 800 million riyals through a 1-for-2 bonus share issue.
Banks were also up with Al Rajhi Bank gaining 1.5 percent, returning to the multi-year high hit last week.
"Investor sentiment is still positive on Saudi due to relatively higher oil prices. Overall we have positive vibes in the market for now ahead of a (potential) MSCI upgrade," said Muhammad Faisal Potrik, head of research at Riyad Capital. Index complier MSCI will decide in June on whether to upgrade Riyadh to emerging market status.
The Abu Dhabi and Dubai indexes were both flat. Emaar Properties fell 0.8 percent.
In Doha, Qatar Islamic Bank gained over 1.0 percent after reporting a 12.6 percent rise in first-quarter net profit to 625.2 million riyals ($171.8 million). That was above the average forecast of 547 million riyals by three analysts.
Qatar's benchmark index was, however, flat as blue chip Industries Qatar was down 0.8 percent on profit-taking after sharp gains in recent weeks on its move to increase its foreign shareholder limit to 49 percent.
(Reporting by Saeed Azhar; Editing by Andrew Torchia) ((Saeed.firstname.lastname@example.org; +971521047569 Reuters Messaging: Saeed.email@example.com))