July 8, 2020 / 8:10 AM / a month ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Major Gulf stock markets get off to a weak start

July 8 (Reuters) - Major stock markets in the Gulf were subdued in early trade on Wednesday, with banking and real estate shares weighing on indexes in the United Arab Emirates.

The benchmark index in Saudi Arabia, which has the highest number of cases in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, eased 0.1%. Petrochemical firm Saudi Basic Industries fell 0.3%, while oil behemoth Saudi Aramco edged down 0.2%.

The kingdom is pressing on with plans to double the size and population of its capital city in the next decade, a government official said, despite an economic downturn due to the coronavirus crisis and low oil prices.

In Dubai, the index slipped 0.2%, with blue-chip developer Emaar Properties falling 1.1% and its unit Emaar Malls losing 1.4%.

However, the losses were limited by Amlak Finance, which advanced 4.7%.

On Monday, Amlak signed an agreement with Dubai Land Department, allowing customers to invest in properties listed by the firm.

The Abu Dhabi index eased 0.5%, weighed down by a 0.7% fall in the country’s largest lender, First Abu Dhabi Bank , and a 0.4% decrease in telecoms firm Etisalat .

Elsewhere, Dana Gas dropped 1.3%. The energy firm has asked owners of its bonds to provide information on their holdings, three sources said and a document reviewed by Reuters showed, a move that some investors fear may be a step towards another debt restructuring.

Qatar’s index lost 0.4%, hurt by a 2.1% decline in Qatar Islamic Bank and petrochemical maker Industries Qatar was down 1%.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Qatar exceeded 100,000 on Monday, its health ministry said.

With a population of about 2.8 million people, the energy-rich Gulf state has one of the world’s highest per capita numbers of confirmed cases. (Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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