* Saudi’s SAFCO down after proposing lower H1 dividend
* Al Tayyar up as deal with government still ongoing
* Speculative stocks weigh on Dubai
* Egypt sees lowest volumes in almost one year
* Kuwait firm before FTSE’s decision next month
By Celine Aswad
DUBAI, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Thin news flow and upcoming Islamic holidays towards the end of the week kept many long-term equity investors away on Sunday, leaving stock markets in the Middle East vulnerable to profit- taking, but Kuwait’s index bucked the trend.
“Speculators are booking capital gains while long-term investors were dormant,” said a Jeddah-based broker.
Stock markets are often sparsely traded ahead of Eid al-Adha, he noted. The holidays will start on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia and Thursday in the United Arab Emirates.
The Riyadh index retreated 0.3 percent on Sunday as some of last week’s best-performing banks fell; National Commercial Bank, which was up 5.4 percent last week, lost 1.5 percent.
Saudi Arabia Fertilizers Co fell 0.8 percent after its board proposed a first-half cash dividend of 0.75 riyal per share, down from 1.5 riyals for the first half of 2016.
But Al Tayyar Travel Group rose 1.9 percent in relatively active trade after the company said it was still “carrying on its business dealings” with the Ministry of Education.
The company had previously stated that on average 30 percent of its total yearly revenue came from contracts with the ministry, and there was concern among some investors that Al Tayyar might lose a long-term contract with the government amid Riyadh’s austerity measures.
In the UAE, Dubai’s index fell 0.6 percent as some shares favoured by speculative investors weakened, including GFH Financial Group, which lost 3.3 percent.
Abu Dhabi’s index slipped 0.3 percent with the main drag coming from property-related shares; heavyweight Aldar Properties fell 1.3 percent.
Qatar’s index declined 0.2 percent, its third straight session of losses. Shipper Qatar Navigation (Milaha) fell 1.4 percent but the largest listed lender, Qatar National Bank, rose 1.3 percent, reversing some of last week’s losses.
In Cairo, the index fell 0.1 percent in the lowest trading volume since September 2016. Six of the top 10 most valuable shares fell including Commercial International Bank , which lost 0.7 percent.
Kuwait’s index rose 0.4 percent in healthy volume, supported by gains in blue chips. Boubyan Petrochemical jumped 3.8 percent and Kuwait Finance House rose 1.0 percent.
At the end of September, index compiler FTSE will announce its decision on whether to include Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in its secondary emerging market index. Analysts at Arqaam Capital believe the chances for both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to meet FTSE’s inclusion criteria are high, but a bleak domestic economic outlook has been weighing on Saudi Arabia.
“We expect Kuwait to have a weight of 0.54 percent in the FTSE EM + China A All Cap Index, equivalent to $455 million in inflows,” Arqaam Capital said in a report this month.
The Kuwaiti index has outperformed its counterparts in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council this year; it is up by almost one-fifth since Jan. 1.
* The index fell 0.3 percent to 7,225 points.
* The index lost 0.6 percent to 3,603 points.
* The index slipped 0.3 percent to 4,480 points.
* The index declined 0.2 percent to 8,934 points.
* The index fell 0.1 percent to 12,913 points.
* The index rose 0.4 percent at 6,914 points.
* The index was flat at 1,302 points.
* The index rose 0.3 percent to 4,963 points. (Editing by Andrew Torchia)