May 10, 2018 / 8:37 AM / in 2 months

MIDEAST STOCKS-Geopolitics weigh on Gulf markets, Arabtec jumps in Dubai

DUBAI, May 10 (Reuters) - Gulf markets were mostly weak in early trade on Thursday amid investor concerns over an escalation of tensions in the Middle East, where Israel responded to what it said was a rocket attack from Iranian forces in Syria.

The attack on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, just after midnight, marked the first time Iranian forces have attacked Israel from Syria, where they have deployed along with Iran-backed Shi'ite militias and Russian troops to support President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war.

The Saudi index was down 0.4 pct, despite strong oil prices that usually boost Gulf markets and shares in the energy sector.

Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, hit their highest level since November 2014, at $77.89 per barrel, shortly before 0700 GMT, up 0.9 percent from their last close.

Most Saudi blue chips were down, with Petro Rabigh losing 0.8 percent, Saudi Arabia Mining Co (MAADEN) falling 1.2 percent and Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC) giving 0.8 percent.

Shares in Saudi Arabian food producer Savola dived 5.2 percent to 37.80 riyals after it swung to losses in the first quarter, and reported a net loss of 84.3 mln riyals ($22.5 mln) compared with year-earlier net profit of 4.8 mln riyals. Alinma Bank was also down 1.1 percent in heavy trade.

Qatar's index fell 0.6 pct in early trade, dragged down by Qatar National Bank (QNB), which lost 1.7 percent, and telecommunications operator Ooredoo, which was down 1.3 percent.

The Dubai index also edged down 0.3 percent as Emaar Properties dropped 1.2 percent.

Construction firm Arabtec jumped 5 percent to 1.68 dirhams in early and unusually heavy trade, after reporting a rise in Q1 net profit; and contractor Drake& Scull International gained 1.9 percent in heavy trade.

Abu Dhabi's index was also down 0.2 percent as Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC (TAQA) dived 6.0 percent despite a 43 percent rise in first-quarter profit, boosted by higher crude oil prices. ($1 = 3.6730 UAE dirham) ($1 = 3.7503 riyals) (Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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