April 23, 2017 / 7:47 AM / 4 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi shares up on news civil servant, military allowances restored

DUBAI, April 23 (Reuters) - The Saudi stock index jumped in early trade on Sunday on overnight news that King Salman had issued a royal decree restoring financial allowances for Saudi civil servants and military personnel.

The allowances were reduced last September as part of austerity measures due to low oil prices. Officials said on Saturday that the cuts had been cancelled because of better-than-expected budgetary performance in the first quarter of 2017.

Advancing shares outnumbered declining ones 152 to 6, taking Riyadh's index 1.4 percent higher after 25 minutes of trade, with domestically focused shares in the lead.

Electronics and stationery retailer Jarir surged 7.9 percent on hopes consumer spending will help boost the company's earnings.

Shares of the largest dairy producer in the Gulf Almarai jumped 2.8 percent after reporting a first quarter net profit of 328.3 million riyals ($87.55 million), up 13.7 percent from a year earlier. Four analysts polled by Reuters forecast a net profit of 337.4 million riyals.

Almarai attributed its improved results to better cost management, lower commodity costs and lower general expenses and said it will continue "to focus on costs control, efficiency gains and cash-flow preservation".

Sunday was the first day the Saudi stock exchange will settle trades within two business days of execution, a practice called T+2, rather than the previous same day settlement.

Other markets in the region were quiet, with Kuwait's index up 0.6 percent and Qatar's index up 0.1 percent.

All bourses in the United Arab Emirates are closed for a public holiday.

$1 = 3.7498 riyals Reporting by Celine Aswad; editing by Andrew Torchia and Jason Neely

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