DUBAI, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Gulf stock markets may move sideways on Thursday on a lack of clear direction from minutes of a policy meeting by the U.S. Federal Reserve that showed little support for a rate increase in March and as oil futures traded within a tight range.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged down 0.1 percent after overnight losses on Wall Street. Brent crude was up 0.8 percent at $56.32 a barrel.
Most currencies in Gulf countries are pegged to the U.S. dollar, so their monetary rates have to follow in the path of U.S. rate increases.
Bank sector analysts expected that a rising interest rate environment in 2017 would bode well for lenders in the region, as their net interest margins get a boost, although lower rates and slightly easing liquidity concerns may help encourage the private sector to borrow more.
In Abu Dhabi, banks make up almost half of the total market value, and about 35 percent in neihbouring Dubai. In the reigon’s largest market, Saudi Arabia, lenders make up about one-quarter of the total market value.
Qatar’s telecommunications operator Ooredoo may be bid up after the board recommended a cash dividend of 3.5 Qatari riyals per share for 2016, higher than the outlay in 2015 of 3.0 riyals per share.
Ooredoo’s fourth-quarter net profit attributable to shareholders was nearly flat at 361 million riyals. (Reporting by Celine Aswad; Editing by Andrew Torchia and Biju Dwarakanath)