Bank stocks drag down Qatar's index as investors booked profits from recent gains
Saudi Arabia's building and construction stocks made sharp gains as investors picked up shares in sectors expected to benefit from the 2012 budget.
Saudi Steel Pipes and Arabian Pipes jumped 8.3 and 9.7 percent respectively. Construction firm Al Khodari climbed 5 percent.
"The budget will be announced soon and there is optimism that the government will give a boost to housing and infrastructure," says Mohammad Omran, financial analyst based in Riyadh.
The budget is expected in the coming days and may be as early as Monday evening.
The kingdom's index advanced 0.5 percent to 6,414 points, its highest close since Aug 3.
Bank stocks dragged down Qatar's index as investors booked profits from recent gains driven by dividend hopes, while volumes fell to their lowest in 12 days.
Heavyweight Qatar National Bank shed 0.7 percent, Masraf Al Rayan and Commercial Bank of Qatar dipped 0.2 percent each.
"Investors are waiting for the new year to add risk and build positions," said Ali Al Enin, equity trader at Qatar National Bank. "They are also looking for more cues from economic data from US"
The index slipped 0.4 percent to 8,785 points, trimming 2011 gains to 1.2 percent. Doha's market was the only regional bourse recording year-to-date gains.
Abu Dhabi's Aldar Properties fell after saying its board will discuss asset sales at a Dec 28 meeting, while UAE markets edged higher in muted trade.
Shares in Aldar shed 2.4 percent, not far from the record low plumbed on Wednesday when talk of delisting hit the shares. The company denied this speculation.
"I don't think this should be surprising - there was an assumption that Aldar would sell over AED4bn worth of land in 2011, and so far there has been AED2.6bn," says a real estate analyst who asks not to be identified.
"There would be a concern if they weren't doing something. To a large extent, the company is paralysed by the state of its balance sheet," the analyst added.
The share price is expected to be held back by a lack of projects in the pipeline.
Other property stocks were also lower with Sorouh Real Estate falling 3.7 percent and RAK Properties shedding 3.6 percent.
Abu Dhabi's index ended 0.09 percent higher at 2,352 points, moving sideways from Wednesday's 33-month closing low.
Food firm Agthia Group climbed 3.6 percent after acquiring Pelit Su, a Turkey based spring water company.
Dubai's benchmark ended 0.1 percent higher at 1,330 points, rising from Sunday's seven-year low.
"People are wondering why global markets and regional ones are doing well, while UAE is getting worse," said Talal Touqan, head of equity research at Al Ramz Securities. "At some point people lose hope and switch to those winning markets, which makes the situation worse."
Mashreq Bank was the main support, climbing 8.6 percent. The usually illiquid stock made the jump in three trades, positioning it well for the year-end close.
In Oman, the index extends gains for a third session, rising 0.5 percent to close at 5,678 points.
Heavyweight Bank Muscat gained 1.4 percent and Bank Sohar rose 0.7 percent.
Kuwait's market ended nearly flat.