* Petrochemical sector pulls Saudi up
* Shipper Bahri gains on cash dividend
* Dubai near flat; lowest volume in five weeks
* Blue chips support Abu Dhabi
* Egypt up but Qalaa Holdings slips on wider Q3 net loss
By Celine Aswad
DUBAI, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Stock markets in the Gulf posted small gains on Sunday after crude oil prices climbed back towards 17-month highs at the end of last week, but trading volumes shrank across the region. Foreign buyers continued to bid up shares in Egypt.
Brent futures rose 2.2 percent to settle at $55.21 a barrel on Friday after Goldman Sachs boosted its price forecast for 2017 and producers showed signs of adhering to a global deal to reduce output.
Saudi Arabian petrochemical shares were bid up on Sunday with all 14 listed producers advancing, pulling the main Saudi stock index 0.7 percent higher. Mid-sized producer Sahara Petrochemical was the top performer, jumping 7.1 percent.
Saudi Cable Co rose 2.5 percent after saying its Turkish subsidiary had won a $50 million order, with the financial impact to start appearing by the end of the second quarter next year.
Commodities transportation company National Shipping Co (Bahri) climbed 1.5 percent after it announced its board had proposed a cash dividend of 2.5 riyals per share for 2016, in line with 2015. Its dividend yield is at 6.0 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Dubai’s main index closed almost flat as trading volume fell to the lowest in five weeks, suggesting that many institutional traders, which played a major role last week, were largely absent on Sunday.
Emaar Malls Group rebounded 2.7 percent but builder Drake & Scull, the most heavily traded share, slipped 0.4 percent.
Blue chips helped carry Abu Dhabi’s index 0.8 percent higher. Dana Gas rose 1.9 percent and First Gulf Bank climbed 2.0 percent.
Stock markets in Bahrain and Qatar were closed for national holidays.
Cairo’s main index rose 0.6 percent to 11,398 points, but trading volume was the lowest since the central bank floated the Egyptian pound on Nov. 3, triggering a bull market.
Foreign investors remained net buyers of Egyptian shares by a small margin, continuing a trend which began with the currency float, bourse data showed.
Orascom Telecom, the most heavily traded share, added 2.6 percent and Ezz Steel jumped 10 percent. Ezz reported sharply higher third-quarter sales at the end of last week, though it continued to make a loss.
But Qalaa Holdings slumped 3.3 percent after the company reported a wider third-quarter net loss of 208 million Egyptian pounds ($11.2 million) against a loss 136 million pounds a year earlier.
Analysts at Naeem Brokerage said in a note that the results were due to weak operating performance at both continuing and discontinued operations, impairments, and high interest costs, adding that they anticipated more “painful exits and impairments” in the next quarter.
“Fourth-quarter results could be impacted by translationary FX losses as a result of the recent EGP float, originating from its foreign currency-denominated debt of around $2.1 billion,” Naeem said.
* The index rose 0.7 percent to 7,138 points.
* The index added 0.6 percent to 11,398 points.
* The index edged up just 0.01 percent to 3,555 points.
* The index rose 0.8 percent to 4,497 points.
* Kuwait’s index lost 0.3 percent to 5,651 points.
* The index slipped a mere 0.01 percent to 5,728 points.
Editing by Andrew Torchia/Keith Weir