Middle Eastern stock markets fell on Tuesday because of the global downturn in equities, but the region outperformed emerging markets in Asia, where MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares ex-Japan plunged 3.6 percent.
Because of low oil prices and poor liquidity, the Gulf greatly underperformed the uptrend in global emerging markets last year, so fund managers say it may be less prone to profit-taking and have less distance to fall on the way down.
The Saudi stock index fell 1.6 percent with declining stocks outnumbering gainers by 169 to 13. Cement shares continued to pull back after big gains last week, with Jouf Cement down 3.3 percent.
Mediterranean & Gulf Cooperative Insurance and Reinsurance fell a further five percent, having lost almost 10 percent on each of the previous two days. The Capital Market Authority has said it might suspend or cancel trade in the stock following the central bank's decision to prohibit the firm from issuing or renewing policies pending a capital increase.
But the biggest bank, National Commercial Bank, rose 0.7 percent. It reported a fourth-quarter net profit of 2.56 billion riyals ($683 million), up from 2.29 billion riyals a year ago. SICO Bahrain had forecast 2.16 billion riyals.
PetroRabigh added a further 3.1 percent after soaring 9.9 percent on Monday, when it reported a leap in fourth-quarter net profit.
Dubai's index fell 1.5 percent as losing stocks outnumbered gainers by 32 to three. Abu Dhabi's index sagged 0.9 percent.
In Qatar, the index lost 2.1 percent. Salam International Investment, the most heavily traded stock, closed 3.2 percent lower, far off its intra-day low. It had plunged by its 10 percent daily limit on Monday, when it posted an annual net loss of 89.9 million riyals ($24.7 million) versus a year-earlier profit of 119.7 million riyals.
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