October 28, 2018 / 8:26 AM / 17 days ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf markets sluggish in early trade as Saudi consolidates

Oct 28 (Reuters) - Gulf stock markets were largely sluggish in early trade on Sunday, with Saudi Arabia consolidating Thursday's gains when it closed at its highest level in two weeks.

The main index was down by 0.1 percent in the first hour of trading, with banks and petrochemical shares falling.

Saudi Basic Industries Co. (SABIC) was 0.9 percent lower after reporting a 5.4 percent rise in third quarter net product, which was slightly above analysts forecasts.

Al Rajhi Bank, which last week reported double digit third quarter profit growth, was down 1.0 percent on profit taking.

National Commercial Bank (NCB) was down 0.8 percent and Samba Financial Group was 1.1 percent lower.

In a sign that global investors are still keen on Saudi Arabia, Norway's sovereign wealth fund, the world's largest, said it plans to more than double its investments in Saudi Arabia after it is included in the fund's reference index soon.

The Dubai main index was down 0.2 percent, weighed down by property and banking shares. Major developer Emaar Properties was down 1 percent and rival DAMAC Properties fell 2 percent.

Dubai Islamic Bank, which earlier this month posted a 10.8 percent third quarter profit jump, was down 0.4 percent.

Qatar bucked the trend with the main index up 0.2 percent, supported by banking and energy shares. Qatar has been the best performing stock in the Gulf region, racking up gains of 19 percent year-to-date, partly helped by moves by its biggest companies to increase foreign ownership limit to 49 percent.

Qatar has seen an additional $1.5 bln flowing into its stock exchange since increasing the foreign ownership limit to 49 percent, the gulf country's stock exchange market development director Mohsin Mujtaba said kast week.

Qatar National Bank (QNB), the region's largest bank, was up 1.0 percent and Qatar Islamic Bank was trading 0.5 percent higher.

Industries Qatar was 0.3 percent higher. (Editing by Toby Chopra)

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