March 19, 2017 / 5:57 AM / 5 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf may trade sideways, FTSE have little impact on Qatar

DUBAI, March 19 (Reuters) - Stock markets in the Gulf may trade sideways on Sunday as investors lack fresh cues from overseas markets and await first- quarter corporate earnings before taking large new positions.

Brent oil settled at $51.76 a barrel on Friday after trading narrowly. Global equities ended last week on a strong footing, but most Gulf stock markets are lagging emerging markets in general; the MSCI emerging market index is up 12 percent since the start of the year but Dubai's index is down 0.3 percent and the Saudi benchmark down 4 percent.

Investors are concerned that low oil prices and planned government austerity measures in the Gulf will continue to weigh on corporate earnings.

The second phase of Qatar's upgrade by FTSE Russell to secondary emerging market status will take place from the opening on Monday, with 20 of the 22 companies selected in September 2016 seeing their investibility weights doubled.

Some passive funds may buy those stocks on Sunday as a result; fund managers have calculated passive fund inflows due to this month's FTSE change could exceed $300 million. But profit-taking last week suggested many investors, after front-running the rebalancing, are eager to book gains and will sell into strength.

In Kuwait, Kuwait International Bank and Al Ahli Bank go ex-dividend on Sunday, which could pressure their share prices.

In Saudi Arabia, insurer Solidarity Saudi Takaful may attract some interest after it said it had reduced its accumulated losses to below 50 percent of its capital. Its shares will be suspended from trade in the first two hours. (Reporting by Celine Aswad; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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