May 23, 2019 / 8:40 AM / 4 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Financials weigh on most of Gulf, FAB lifts Abu Dhabi

May 23 (Reuters) - Most major Gulf markets fell on Thursday weighed down by banking shares, mirroring wider Asian slump amid U.S.-China trade conflict. But the top lender lifted Abu Dhabi.

Dubai’s index lost 0.9% with all financial and real estate shares sliding.

Emirates NBD, its largest lender, dropped 1.8% and blue-chip developer Emaar Properties was down 0.5%.

Property prices have been falling since a mid-2014 peak, hurt by weaker oil prices and muted sales, which in part were behind the index’s poor performance the last year.

However the index had shown signs of recovery starting this year and rose past 9% by end of April before seeing a sell-off in May due to global trade war and regional geo-political tensions.

The index is down 7.4% this month, though still up 1.3% year-to-date.

Saudi’s index decreased 0.4% with Al Rajhi Bank shedding 0.9% and Sahara International Petrochemical falling 2.6%.

The latter completed the merger of equals with Sahara Petrochemical, which delisted on May 20.

Saudi Arabian mall operator Arabian Centres, which debuted on Wednesday, dipped further by 1.8% to 24.5 riyals ($6.53) from its initial public offer price of 26 riyals.

Arabian Centres’ share sale, which raised 2.47 billion riyals ($658.65 million), was the kingdom’s third biggest since Saudi lender National Commercial Bank raised $6 billion in 2014, according to Refinitiv data.

Qatar’s index declined 0.3% with Qatar Fuel dropping 1.4% and Qatar Islamic Bank was down 0.7%.

The Abu Dhabi index rose 0.4% with First Abu Dhabi Bank, the country’s largest lender, adding 1.2%. J.P. Morgan retained ‘overweight’ rating on the stock despite recent price volatility and said it preferred the bank over Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, which was down 0.5%.

Dana Gas gained 1.9%. The stock has been increasing since Tuesday when the energy firm said it had started drilling operations at the Merak-1 offshore well in Egypt.

$1 = 3.7502 riyals Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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