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MIDEAST STOCKS-Qatar falls sharply, Etisalat drags on Abu Dhabi; Saudi bounces from low
February 28, 2017 / 2:46 PM / 6 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Qatar falls sharply, Etisalat drags on Abu Dhabi; Saudi bounces from low

* Reuters poll shows regional funds bearish on Qatar

* Arabtec weighs on Dubai

* Saudi helped by petrochemicals

* Poll shows funds most positive on Saudi since February 2015

* Egypt's SODIC drops despite strong Q4 earnings

By Celine Aswad

DUBAI, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Most stock markets in the Gulf fell on Tuesday with Qatar's index hit particularly hard, but Saudi Arabia ended almost flat as petrochemical shares rebounded.

Qatar's stock index dropped 2.2 percent; all banking shares fell with Qatar National Bank retreating 2.9 percent.

A monthly Reuters poll, published on Tuesday, found 62 percent of Middle Eastern fund managers expected to decrease their allocations to Qatari equities over the next three months and none to increase them. That was the most negative outlook towards Qatar since the survey was launched in September 2013.

One of the reasons is that by the end of March, all inflows of passive funds related to the second part of Qatar's upgrade to FTSE Secondary Emerging Market status are due to have been completed. Also dividend payouts are due to be completed in the coming weeks, leaving managers with less impetus to buy shares afterwards.

Abu Dhabi's index dropped 1.7 percent as the largest share, telecommunications operator Etisalat, slumped 4.1 percent. Investors sold after local news website 24.ae reported that the United Arab Emirates cabinet had delayed a decision on measures needed to improve the competitive landscape in the telecommunications industry, including a repricing of all services. Etisalat could not immediately be reached for comment.

Dubai's index gave up small gains made early in the day and fell 0.1 percent as trading volume almost quadrupled from Monday's very low level. Financially troubled builder Arabtec lost 2.3 percent.

Saudi Arabia's index, however, closed nearly flat at 6,972 points, bouncing from a session low of 6,913 points. The Reuters poll found funds at their most bullish towards Saudi equities since February 2015.

Petrochemicals, which traded lower for most of the session, recovered with Advanced Petrochemical adding 1.5 percent. But banks remained weak with Saudi British Bank falling 1.9 percent.

Cairo's index lost 0.7 percent; it has dropped in four of the last five sessions on profit-taking.

Real estate firm SODIC lost 1.0 percent to 12.10 Egyptian pounds despite reporting a near doubling from a year earlier in fourth-quarter net income, as revenues for full-year 2016 reached an all-time high.

Analysts at Cairo's Pharos Research attributed the improving bottom line to impressive building delivery figures as well as high demand.

"There is considerable upside potential to SODIC’s stock, given its current market price. The stock price has been under pressure since January 2017, with selling pressure taking the price down to September 2016 levels," said Pharos.

TUESDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index added 0.04 percent to 6,972 points.

DUBAI

* The index fell 0.1 percent to 3,630 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index declined 1.7 percent to 4,552 points.

EGYPT

* The index lost 0.7 percent to 11,938 points.

KUWAIT

* The index edged up 0.03 percent to 6,783 points.

QATAR

* The index declined 2.2 percent to 10,702 points.

OMAN

* The index fell 0.7 percent to 5,780 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index was flat at 1,350 points.

Editing by Andrew Torchia and Ed Osmond

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