DUBAI, May 21 (Reuters) - Dubai stocks climbed to a more than two-week high on Monday, as sentiment for property shares was lifted by a decision of the United Arab Emirates' government to grant residency visas of up to 10 years to investors and specialists.
Emaar Properties rose 2.9 percent and DAMAC Properties climbed 4.8 percent, lifting the Dubai index by almost 1 percent to a more than two-week high of 2,947 points.
The weak Dubai real estate sector has been a drag on the market this year with shares of top UAE developer Emaar down about 17 percent so far this year.
The UAE move "will surely boost the performance of the real estate sector and give comfort to the investors there and especially property owners," said Marie Salem, director of capital markets at FFA Dubai.
Investors and specialists in scientific, technical, medical and research fields will receive UAE residency visas for up to 10 years, the government said. The families of those categories of foreigners will also receive the same visa rights. Ali Rashid Lootah, chairman of Dubai's property firm Nakheel, said changes to residency visa regulations will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the UAE economy and in particular the real estate sector. In Abu Dhabi, the main index rose 0.7 percent, helped by a 0.9 percent gain in market heavyweight, telecommunications company Etisalat. Aldar Properties which had risen 1.4 percent in early trade on the visa move, gave up its gains on profit taking and ended flat. The Saudi index ended 0.3 percent lower, below the 8000-point barrier, with energy and consumer stocks lower.
Shares of Saudi Basic Industries Corp were down 0.3 percent, while investor took profit in property Jabal Omar , which ended 2.9 percent lower.
The stock had surged 3.9 percent on Sunday after announcing an agreement with Albilad Capital to sell 90 housing units for 1.1 billion riyals ($293 million).
In Doha, Qatar National Bank surged 3.9 percent, helping to lift the the benchmark index by almost 1 percent.
The Egyptian index ended flat, losing early gains as central bank's decision last week to keep interest rates unchanged triggered some buying interest in the morning.
"We still believe the path for interest rates is lower & expect at least 200 basis points decline in the second half of the year," said Vrajesh Bhandari, portfolio manager at Al Mal capital.
* The index was down 0.3 percent at 7996 points.
* The index climbed 1 percent to 2947 points.
* The index rose 0.7 percent to 4,458 points.
* The index rose 1 percent to 8,944 points.
* The index was down 0.1 percent at 4,766 points.
* The index was flat at 1,268 points.
* The index was up 0.1 percent to 4,596 points.
* The index was flat at 16,780 points.
Reporting by Saeed Azhar