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MIDEAST STOCKS-Oil depresses Gulf, Abu Dhabi hit by ex-dividend FGB, NBAD

DUBAI, March 9 Gulf stock markets were pulled down early on Thursday by a 5 percent overnight slide in oil prices, while Abu Dhabi was hit particularly hard as heavyweights First Gulf Bank and National Bank of Abu Dhabi traded ex-dividend.

Abu Dhabi's stock index dropped 2.9 percent as First Gulf Bank tumbled 9.0 percent and National Bank of Abu Dhabi lost 5.6 percent. The pair are due to merge on April 1.

Dubai's index fell 0.1 percent in very thin trade with tourism-sensitive companies trading lower; theme parks operator DXB Entertainments was down 1.9 percent and Emaar Malls Group fell 0.8 percent.

Saudi Arabia's index edged down 0.5 percent in the first 10 minutes as most petrochemical shares declined in response to oil. PetroRabigh lost 3.0 percent.

But real estate investment trust Riyad REIT climbed 3.2 percent after the fund signed three memorandums of understanding for the possible acquisition of buildings in three projects. The fund estimated the value of the acquisitions would be around 1.2 billion riyals ($320 million) and said it would finance those investments through a loan or an increase in share capital.

Property developer Jabal Omar jumped 5.2 percent after the government said it planned to expand the developer's projects in Mecca to 1.66 million square metres from 1.17 million square metres.

In Doha, the index was nearly flat with gaining shares outnumbering declining ones 10 to nine. Doha Bank , which had weighed on the market in recent days after going ex-dividend and obtaining approval for a new share issue, rose 1.3 percent but Commercial Bank lost 1.4 percent. (Reporting by Celine Aswad; Editing by Andrew Torchia and Dominic Evans)

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