June 3, 2018 / 1:09 PM / 6 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-New labour minister boosts Saudi market, Emaar lifts Dubai

* Market reacts positively to new Saudi minister

* Saudi banking stocks up, Almarai best performer

* Emaar Properties, Dubai Islamic Bank up in Dubai

* TAQA plunges in Abu Dhabi

* Qatar Gas Transport leaves MSCI downgrade behind

By Davide Barbuscia

DUBAI, June 3 (Reuters) - The Saudi stock market jumped on Sunday after the weekend appointment of a prominent businessman as labour minister, a move widely welcome by the private sector.

Ahmed bin Suleiman al-Rajhi is expected to create a friendlier business environment, enhance communication between the public and the private sectors and help support small and medium enterprises, economists said.

The Saudi exchange closed up 2 percent, with banking stocks Samba Financial Group and Al Rajhi Bank rising 4.7 percent and 5.2 percent respectively. The new minister is a son of the founder of Al Rajhi.

The best performer was dairy firm Almarai, which jumped 8.5 percent. The Gulf’s largest dairy company announced last week it aims to spend 10.6 billion riyals ($2.83 billion) under a five-year business plan.

In Dubai, the index gained 0.8 percent, lifted by a 2.1 percent surge by blue-chip Emaar Properties and a 2.8 percent gain by Dubai Islamic Bank.

According to a monthly Reuters poll of leading Middle East fund managers published on Thursday, sentiment is shifting in favour of United Arab Emirates equities after their poor performance so far this year.

In Abu Dhabi the index shed 0.9 percent, with TAQA plunging 8 percent in thin trade. The stock has been volatile after soaring earlier this year on rising oil prices.

Real estate firms Aldar Properties and RAK Properties were down 0.5 percent and 1.5 percent respectively.

In Qatar, the index climbed 0.6 percent, lifted by Qatar Gas Transport, which jumped 7.5 percent. The stock has been under pressure since mid-March as focus shifted to other Qatari listed names benefiting from an increase in foreign ownership limits, said QNB in a research note.

An MSCI downgrade of the stock to its small-cap index took effect at the end of May, but Sunday’s gains suggested selling related to that had largely finished.

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index gained 2 percent to 8,330 points.

DUBAI

* The index added 0.8 percent to 2,987 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index shed 0.9 percent to 4,566 points.

QATAR

* The index went up 0.6 percent to 8,931 points.

KUWAIT

* The index lost 0.4 percent to 4,710 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index was flat at 1,266 points.

OMAN

* The index decreased 0.1 percent to 4,602 points.

EGYPT

* The index gained 1.6 percent to 16,675 points. ($1 = 3.7502 riyals) (editing by John Stonestreet)

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