Gulf markets seen keeping firm tone

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Gulf markets are expected to extend gains as global sentiment remains positive; anticipation of fourth-quarter earnings in the Gulf is likely to be a major trading factor.

But some profit-booking is also possible, especially in Dubai after the index surged nearly 3 percent on Wednesday.

"We're expecting to see a strong performance on regional markets early in the year; we saw that GCC markets lagged international markets' performance for 2012, except Dubai, so the rest of the markets should be playing catch-up in January," says Marwan Shurrab, vice president and chief trader at Gulfmena Investments.

UAE real estate stocks are likely to be in focus again. For the moment, the market appears to have concluded that the central bank's caps on home mortgages are unlikely to be implemented in a way that hurts the sector seriously. Speculation about an imminent merger announcement by Sorouh Real Estate and Aldar Properties may continue.

In Muscat, Oman's finance minister said on Wednesday in his budget statement that gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, grew an estimated 8.3 percent last year, faster than the government's target of 7 percent. This may help to support sentiment today.

In global developments, most Asian stock markets edged higher on Thursday on hopes of a steady economic revival in China although oil gave back some of the previous session's strong gains as investors took some money off the table and braced for more US budget battles.

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