January 2, 2018 / 2:11 PM / a year ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-UAE, Qatar bought as year starts, Saudi still soft after petrol hike

* Emaar group stocks bought back in Dubai on valuations

* Gulf Navigation sinks on rights issue plan

* Banks boost Abu Dhabi, Qatar

* Saudi’s Bupa Arabia climbs on deal with Aramco

* Kuwait general index falls sharply but blue chips steady

By Andrew Torchia

DUBAI, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Stock markets in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar rose as they opened for the first day of trade in 2018, while Saudi Arabia continued to slip after a hike in domestic gasoline prices.

The Dubai index had a poor 2017, falling 4.6 percent, but it rose 1.2 percent on Tuesday as stocks in the blue-chip Emaar group, which were beaten down last year by the slump in Dubai’s real estate market, surged in particular.

Flagship Emaar Properties, which had been trading near 12-month lows, climbed 3.6 percent in modest trading volume. Emaar Development, which had sunk from November’s initial public offer price of 6.03 dirhams to a record low of 5.02 dirhams, rebounded 3.9 percent to 5.29 dirhams, while Emaar Malls added 2.8 percent.

“The recent sell-off in the UAE markets has brought up some interesting value buying opportunities,” Dubai’s Al Mal Capital said in a weekly report.

“December has seen high quality companies like Emaar and Aramex retreat more than 10 percent, each of them for their own specific reason. As we move to the New Year, we believe that investors will take a fresh look at the market and re-value these companies,” it said. Aramex edged down 0.2 percent on Tuesday.

A Reuters poll of leading Middle East fund managers, published on Sunday, found 54 percent expect to raise their allocations to regional equities over the next three months and none expects to reduce them, the most positive balance since August.

Gulf Navigation sank 3.9 percent after its board decided to raise issued and paid-up capital by 448.3 million dirhams ($122.2 million) to 1 billion dirhams through a rights issue of new shares.

Abu Dhabi’s index gained 1.0 percent on the back of banks, with First Abu Dhabi adding 2.0 percent, while Qatar climbed 1.1 percent as Masraf Al Rayan, the most heavily traded stock, surged 2.4 percent.

But Saudi Arabia fell 0.3 percent; it had dropped 0.5 percent on Monday after the government raised domestic gasoline prices. Riyadh was the only major regional market to trade on Monday.

Medical insurer Bupa Arabia climbed 2.1 percent after signing a services deal with national oil firm Saudi Aramco.

Kuwait’s general index, which contains many second-tier and speculative stocks, dropped 1.5 percent, but the Kuwait 15 index of blue chips slipped only 0.3 percent.

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index fell 0.3 percent to 7,172 points.

DUBAI

* The index rose 1.2 percent to 3,411 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index gained 1.0 percent to 4,442 points.

QATAR

* The index climbed 1.1 percent to 8,620 points.

EGYPT

* The index edged up 0.1 percent to 15,035 points.

KUWAIT

* The index dropped 1.5 percent to 6,313 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index fell 0.7 percent to 1,322 points.

OMAN

* The index rose 0.2 percent to 5,094 points. (Editing by Mark Potter)

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