MIDEAST STOCKS-Insurance, petchems dampen Saudi, Qatar rises as it completes FTSE upgrade – Reuters


* Solidarity sinks as health insurance policies suspended

* Egypt down on profit-taking

* Arabian Cement drops despite strong Q4 results

* Blue chips rebound in Abu Dhabi

* Qatar rises as it completes FTSE upgrade

By Celine Aswad

DUBAI, March 20 Stock markets in the Middle East
were mixed on Monday with petrochemicals and the insurance
sector weighing on Saudi Arabia while Qatar rose as it completed
its upgrade by index compiler FTSE Russell to secondary emerging
market status.

The Saudi index fell 0.5 percent with the main drag
coming from the petrochemical sector as Brent oil futures
fell further towards $51 a barrel. Saudi Kayan
Petrochemical lost 1.9 percent.

Most insurance shares, which had risen strongly on Sunday,
retreated. Solidarity Saudi Takaful slumped 5.6
percent after the company said the regulator had suspended its
right to issue health insurance policies because of regulatory
violations; the firm did not describe those violations.

Solidarity said it would meet with regulators soon to
resolve the issue, without specifying a date. On Sunday it had
jumped 3.8 percent after it reduced its accumulated losses to
below 50 percent of its capital.

Chubb Arabia Cooperative Insurance fell 0.8
percent after it said it would not distribute a cash dividend
for 2016 in order to improve its solvency.

Egypt’s index retreated 0.5 percent in the highest
volume in a month as investors took profits; the index has
closed higher in seven of the last 10 sessions as the Egyptian
pound weakened against the U.S. dollar.

Arabian Cement dropped 3.0 percent and was the
worst performer in the index despite reporting a near tripling
in its fourth-quarter net profit to 87 million Egyptian pounds
($4.8 million). Revenue was also strong, up 30 percent.

Other construction and materials-related shares also fell,
with Ezz Steel closing 2.7 percent lower.

Dubai’s index lost 0.5 percent in very thin trade
with declining shares outnumbering advancing ones 18 to three.
Builder Drake & Scull fell 2.2 percent.

Abu Dhabi’s, however, added 0.9 percent on the back
of gains in blue chips, which had been the main drag on the
index in the prior session. Real estate developer Aldar
Properties rebounded 3.0 percent and
telecommunications firm Etisalat gained 1.1 percent.

Some investors are rotating into shares which are due to
make dividend payouts in coming weeks; Aldar will go ex-dividend
on March 29 and Etisalat on April 18.

In Qatar, the second and final phase of the FTSE upgrade
took effect from the opening, with 20 of 22 companies selected
in September 2016 seeing their investibility weights doubled.

Those stocks saw selling pressure in recent days as
investors who had tried to front-run the entry of passive funds
into the stocks bailed out. But that selling appeared to ease on
Monday with most of stocks in the group closing higher.
Commercial Bank added 1.9 percent.

MONDAY’S HIGHLIGHTS

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index fell 0.5 percent to 6,919 points.

DUBAI

* The index dropped 0.5 percent to 3,477 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index added 0.9 percent to 4,458 points.

QATAR

* The index rose 0.7 percent to 10,407 points.

KUWAIT

* The index edged up 0.2 percent to 6,869 points.

EGYPT

* The index lost 0.5 percent to 13,023 points.

OMAN

* The index fell 0.2 percent to 5,671 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index edged down 0.2 percent to 1,374 points.

(Editing by Andrew Torchia and Pritha Sarkar)

MIDEAST STOCKS-Insurance, petchems dampen Saudi, Qatar rises as it completes FTSE upgrade – Reuters}