May 9, 2018 / 1:25 PM / 2 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi market hits 3-week low as geopolitical tensions weigh

* Saudi dragged down by Iran tension, missile attack news

* Dubai down 2 pct on Emaar Properties

* Industries Qatar rise 1 pct in a weak market

By Marwa Rashad

RIYADH, May 9 (Reuters) - Saudi stocks closed at their lowest level in more than three weeks, while most other Gulf markets were weak, as geopolitical tensions weighed on the market.

The Saudi index dropped 1.7 percent to 7878 points, its lowest level since April 15. Blue-chips Al Rajhi Bank and National Commercial Bank dropped 2.3 percent and 2.2 percent respectively.

Samba Financial Group shed 2.8 percent despite recording a 6 percent rise in first-quarter net profit, meeting analyst forecasts.

The index had risen in early trade to as much as 8034 points, but sentiment turned sour on news that Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement had fired a salvo of ballistic missiles at the Saudi capital.

The missile attack came hours after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the international nuclear accord with Iran, a move that has raised fears that the conflict in Yemen and other regional flashpoints could be exacerbated.

“Stock markets in the Gulf have been weak (over the) last couple of weeks - so quite likely the event is priced in. There are other moving parts in this geopolitical equation, including the wars in Yemen and Syria, and so Iran’s reaction would be keenly watched,” said Vrajesh Bhandari, portfolio manager at Al Mal Capital.

The Dubai index fell 2.0 percent, the Qatar index edged down 0.5 percent, however, the Abu Dhabi index added 0.2 percent.

Oil prices pushed higher on Wednesday as the U.S. move may curb crude exports by OPEC member Tehran in an already tight market.

“The rise in Brent to a three-and-a-half year high has significant positive implications for oil exporting nations. If crude oil can hold these levels for a while, I think investors would begin factoring in the improving macro fundamentals,” Bhandari added.

In Dubai, the market was pulled back by property developer Emaar which dropped 4.9 percent. Dubai Islamic Bank lost 1.6 percent and Emirates NBD fell 2.4 percent.

Damac properties reversed early gains that exceeded 3.5 percent and closed down 2.2 percent, apparently on profit taking.

First Abu Dhabi Bank rose 1.75 percent in Abu Dhabi market, while property developer Aldar lost 1.9 percent.

Qatari index’s main support came from Industries Qatar which rose almost 1 percent.

In Egypt, the main index fell 1.9 percent as 29 of its 30 stocks declined, led by Commercial International Bank which lost 2.9 percent. Global Telecom was the only gainer, closing 2.4 percent higher.

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index fell 1.7 percent to 7,878 points.

DUBAI

* The index dropped 2.0 percent to 2,890 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index rose 0.2 percent to 4,487 points.

QATAR

* The index lost 0.5 percent to 8,824 points.

KUWAIT

* The index added 0.1 percent to 4,790 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index lost 0.17 percent to 1,271 points.

OMAN

* The index slipped 0.3 percent to 4,676 points.

EGYPT

* The index fell 2 percent to 17,460 points. (Editing by Jon Boyle)

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