Gulf bourses upbeat as traders wait on dividends

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Middle East markets are expected to remain upbeat on Monday, building on early-year gains as investors commit more money to regional equities.

Dubai's index hit a 38-month high on Sunday and Abu Dhabi is near a similar milestone, with both UAE bourses making double-digit gains this year, while Kuwait and Qatar are up 6 and 4.8 percent respectively as the region broadly tracks a bullish start to 2013 on global markets.

Investors will be increasingly tempted to book some of these gains and analysts say such profit-taking aids the overall strength of the market, but for now Middle East bourses appear set to continue upward.

Dubai's Emaar Properties reached a four-year high on Sunday to be up 34 percent in 2013 and is the main driver for the emirate's rally.

"Emaar's shares have been very resilient, while market turnover is being maintained and that's encouraging more people to step back in," says Marwan Shurrab, vice-president and chief trader at Gulfmena Investments.

"Nothing goes up forever and we should see some consolidation in the near term."

Nevertheless, Shurrab predicts buyers will be in the ascendency at least until bluechip companies hold board meetings to propose annual dividend payouts, the size of which investors have been speculating on.

Most Asian financial centres shut for Lunar New Year on Monday, so there are few pointers to suggest a change in sentiment on Middle East bourses, with Brent crude within a few cents of Friday's nine-month peak.

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The banks are especially upping their dividends.... ENBD has proposed a cash dividend of 25% for 2012, up from 20% for 2011, while ADCB has proposed a 25% cash dividend. The market rally may end now dividends are announced.

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