March 12, 2017 / 5:49 AM / 4 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Plunge in oil may hurt Gulf bourses

2 Min Read

DUBAI, March 12 (Reuters) - Stock markets in the Gulf look set to start the week on a soft footing after crude oil prices plunged at the end of last week to a three-month low, while a likely U.S. interest rate hike may dampen tourist and real-estate related shares.

Brent crude oil fell 1.6 percent on Friday to $51.37 a barrel and was down 10 percent for the week on news of another big rise in U.S. crude inventories.

Petrochemical shares, which make up roughly one-quarter of Saudi Arabia's market value, may weigh on that index as many analysts believe product spreads are contracting, and any slide in oil prices could pressure them further.

Expectations that the U.S. central bank will hike rates this week rose to 92 percent after Friday's U.S. jobs report, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Markets have largely already priced in the rate hike - Wall Street closed modestly higher on Friday and MSCI's all-country world stock index rose 0.6 percent.

Saudi banking shares appear to reflect the anticipated positive impact of a rate hike, but tourist and real estate- related shares elsewhere in the Gulf, especially in Dubai, have been weak recently and could see further selling.

National Bank of Kuwait goes ex-dividend on Sunday, which could pressure its share price. (Reporting by Celine Aswad; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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