Saudi recovers from three-week low; UAE resumes rally

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Saudi Arabia's index edges up from a three-week low as petrochemical and banking shares recover, while United Arab Emirates markets resume gains.

Bargain-hunters return to pick up Saudi blue chips. Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC), the world's largest chemicals firm, rises 0.3 percent, Al Rajhi Bank climbs 0.4 percent and lender SABB adds 2.1 percent.

A recovery in oil prices helps sentiment in the largest OPEC member state. Brent crude traded near US$113 a barrel on Wednesday, edging up from a one-month low.

The kingdom's benchmark gains 0.1 percent to 6,998 points, near the psychologically import 7,000 point level.

Elsewhere, UAE investors shift focus to Abu Dhabi banks, which are set to pay the strongest dividends among local companies. First Gulf Bank rises 4.2 percent; the lender will pay a AED0.8 cash dividend early next month. Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank gains 3.3 percent.

"Abu Dhabi banks represent the safe haven names in the UAE market - the yields on bank stocks are really supportive," says Ashraf Abu Shakra, head of institutional trading at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank.

Retail investors trade heavily in property developers. Aldar Properties and Sorouh Real Estate rise 1.3 and 2.7 percent respectively.

Eshraq Properties slumps 9.3 percent, accounting for nearly half of all shares traded; the small-cap is a favourite for retail speculation. Eshraq's board proposed a AED0.5 per share cash dividend and a 17 percent bonus share distribution, according to a bourse statement.

Abu Dhabi's index climbs 1.7 percent to 3,056 points, up for a fifth session in the last six and reaching its highest close since November 2009.

Dubai's Emaar Properties leads the rally on that bourse, rising 1.8 percent. Buyers return after Tuesday's 2.5 percent loss on a dividend disappointment. "Yesterday's drop happened on a tiny volumes - that means investors remain bullish on the stock," Abu Shakra says.

A rebound in Dubai property prices and renewed demand for Emaar's property launches have boosted the stock in recent weeks. It is up 39.5 percent so far this year.

The emirate's benchmark closes 0.7 percent higher at 1,939 points, extending 2013 gains to 19.5 percent.

Elsewhere, Qatar's measure falls 0.9 percent to 8,492 points, its lowest close since January 2.

Kuwait's index rises 0.5 percent to 6,443 points and Oman gains 0.4 percent to 5,983 points.

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