December 19, 2017 / 12:53 PM / 6 months ago

CORRECTED-MIDEAST STOCKS-Qatar leaps, Saudi barely changed before state budget

(Corrects Kuwait index in table)

* Biggest rise by Qatar index since January 2016

* Index rises above 100-day average, first time since April

* Saudi cement shares run out of steam

* Index dips after missile attack, then recovers

* Drake & Scull stays strong in Dubai

By Andrew Torchia

DUBAI, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Qatar’s stock market jumped on Tuesday as local retail investors piled back into the bourse, while Saudi Arabia closed barely changed ahead of the release of its 2018 state budget.

The Qatari index surged 3.8 percent, its biggest daily gain since January 2016, to its highest level since late September. It rose above its 100-day average for the first time since April.

Real estate firm Ezdan Holding jumped 7.9 percent. It plunged 57 percent between end-2016 and mid-November, partly because of a weak Qatari property market. But it has been rebounding strongly since then, supported by news a shareholder has filed suit to block the firm’s plan to go private.

Barwa Real Estate climbed 5.6 percent after saying it signed a 27-year contract with the government to lease two plots of land on which it would develop a residential area for foreign workers.

Rami Jamal, portfolio manager at Qatari firm Amwal, said that since the government announced a 2018 budget last week with slightly higher spending and emphasis on aiding the private sector, local investors had become more comfortable in re-entering the market, where valuations have been depressed.

“To the ‘buy and hold’ investors, the current valuations were last seen in 2011 which offers a sizeable upside when compared to the mean where the Qatari market trades,” he said.

“The dividend-seeking investor should be looking at a current dividend yield of 4.6 percent with selected companies offering near double-digit yields.”

The Saudi index closed 0.1 percent higher. It briefly dipped into negative territory after an explosion was heard in Riyadh and smoke was seen; Saudi air defences intercepted a ballistic missile fired towards Riyadh, Saudi-owned television al-Arabiya reported, and Yemen’s Houthi movement said it had fired a missile towards the city.

The market had risen moderately in early trade in anticipation of the release of the 2018 budget after the close. The budget was expected to feature a moderate increase in spending as Riyadh seeks to lift flagging economic growth.

Cement shares, which had surged in recent days on hopes that the budget will boost infrastructure spending, lost steam. But Makkah Construction shot up 10 percent.

Dubai’s index fell 0.4 percent in a broad-based decline although builder Drake & Scull, the most heavily traded stock, added 0.9 percent. The company does business in Saudi Arabia.

Abu Dhabi dropped 0.7 percent, pulled down by a 4.2 percent decline by Dana Gas.

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index edged up 0.1 percent to 7,199 points.

DUBAI

* The index fell 0.4 percent to 3,359 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index dropped 0.7 percent to 4,367 points.

QATAR

* The index jumped 3.8 percent to 8,523.

EGYPT

* The index fell 0.3 percent to 14,678 points.

KUWAIT

* The index rose 0.8 percent to 6,421 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index rose 0.3 percent to 1,269 points.

OMAN

* The index fell 0.3 percent to 5,070 points. (Additional reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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