June 6, 2018 / 8:45 AM / 12 days ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Big Gulf markets rise, Saudi leads; Dubai's Arabtec leaps

DUBAI, June 6 (Reuters) - Major Gulf stock markets rose in early trade on Wednesday, with Saudi Arabia gaining for a fourth straight day after the appointment of businessman Ahmed bin Suleiman al-Rajhi, a son of the founder of Al Rajhi Bank , as labour minister.

Rajhi’s appointment has spurred hopes that labour reforms making it more expensive to hire foreign workers will be implemented with less disruption to the private sector.

Also, some analysts view his promotion as a sign that Saudi Arabia’s old business families will continue to enjoy government favour after last November’s detention of dozens of the business elite in Riyadh’s crackdown on corruption.

The Saudi index climbed 0.6 percent in the first hour, with gainers outnumbering losers by more than two to one. Zain Saudi added 2.3 percent after saying it had refinanced a 5.9 billion riyal ($1.6 billion) financial facility on preferential terms and had obtained fresh working capital to fund its digital plans.

Qatar gained 0.4 percent, buoyed by fund flows related to the rise in foreign ownership ceilings for some of its blue chips, whose weights in international equity indexes have risen.

Qatar Insurance gained 4.0 percent after its board approved a buy-back of the company’s shares worth up to 500 million riyals ($137 million). The company has a market capitalisation of about 12.6 billion riyals.

In Abu Dhabi, the index added 0.4 percent with big banks and real estate firms outperforming slightly after the crown prince announced a 50 billion dirham ($13.6 billion), three-year stimulus package for the economy, including more investment in new technologies and tourism.

Although the package is welcome, many details are not known and it is not clear how much the package can help the residential real estate market, where prices dropped 7.8 percent from a year earlier in the first quarter.

Dubai’s index edged up 0.3 percent, gaining for a fifth straight day, as builder Arabtec shot up 6.4 percent in its heaviest trade for almost a month.

The stock has rebounded 35 percent from a multi-year low since it reported in mid-May its highest quarterly profit since late 2014. (Reporting by Andrew Torchia, editing by Louise Heavens)

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