UPDATE 5: Agility falls 5.1% on news of laid-off staff dragging index down.
Kuwait's index ended lower for a fourth day as Agility slumped to a six-week low following a Kuwait newspaper report saying the logistics provider had laid off between 500 and 600 employees in the past few days.
Thousands more are likely to laid off in next few months, according to media reports.
Agility fell 5.1 percent. It is down 48 percent since a US court indicted the firm on fraud charges in November.
Zain climbed 1.5 percent, equalling last week's five-month high. It is up 57 percent from early February's eight-month low, around the time it unveiled exclusive talks with India's Bharti Airtel to sell African assets in a $9 billion deal. On Saturday, Bharti's board approved its offer for Zain's assets, according to one report.
National Investments Co climbed 1.2 percent. The Kharafi group is a major shareholder in Zain, NIC and a host of other Kuwait stocks.
"Zain is up massively, so we didn't expect a significant appreciation from this latest news," said Naser al-Nafisi, general manager for Al Joman Center for Economic Consultancy in Kuwait. "We expect there will be significant profit-taking in Zain and other Kharafi companies once the deal is finalised."
This could see Kharafi-affiliated stocks fall about 10 percent, Nafisi said, while the index could lose 5 percent in profit-taking that could last around a week.
"I think the market will be sideways to slightly lower until the end of March as we wait for an official Zain announcement," he said.
The index slipped 0.2 percent to 7,402 points.
Bahrain's measure ended 0.4 percent at 1,537 points.
Dubai Financial Market led Dubai's index to a 10-week closing high as investors bet on a positive resolution to Dubai World's $26 billion debt restructuring.
DFM climbed 6.3 percent and Emaar Properties added 4.9 percent, with this pair accounting for more than half of all shares changing hands on the index.
"Most of the volumes are going into Emaar -- people are still expecting something positive to come out of Dubai World, but there's nothing specific on Emaar," said Chamel Fahmy, Beltone Financial regional senior sales trader.
"Everyone is waiting on an official announcement on Dubai World. There aren't really any other catalysts in the market."
Dubai Investments Co added 5.9 percent after its chief executive said it was in talks to list its private equity arm, M'Sharie, on the Dubai Financial Market or Nasdaq Dubai within a year.
The index climbed 2.8 percent to 1,774 points, its highest finish since January 11.
Property stocks boosted Abu Dhabi's index, tracking gains in Dubai bellwether Emaar Properties.
Aldar Properties climbed 1.9 percent and Sorouh Real Estate added 1.7 percent. Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank rose 2.8 percent, with the lender one of two domestic banks on a committee of Dubai World creditors.
"Psychologically, the Dubai and Abu Dhabi markets are correlated," said Fahmy.
"ADCB is a major Dubai World creditor and people are drawing a scenario whereby banks will not have to raise provisions."
"Aldar and Sorouh always shadow Emaar, so there's a spill-over effect from Dubai to Abu Dhabi."
The index climbed 0.9 percent to 2,857 points. Emaar rose 4.9 percent.
Qatar's index fell for a second day as investors continued to book profits from Wednesday's 20-week high.
Industries Qatar was the main drag, falling 2.4 percent and Masraf Al Rayan dropped 0.8 percent.
Barwa Real Estate climbed 1.6 percent after receiving regulatory approval for its takeover of Qatar Real Estate (Alaqaria). The latter added 1.5 percent.
The index slipped 0.1 percent to 7,310 points.
"The index is approaching resistance at 7,600 points," NBK Capital wrote in a research note. "The trend is shifting in favour of the bulls. Traders can buy the dips."
Oman's index made its largest gain for more than a month, climbing 0.7 percent to 6,678 points.
Bank Muscat added 0.9 percent, while bank Dhofar added 4.1 percent.
Saudi Arabia's index hit a fresh 17-month high on Saturday, rising 0.4 percent.
Saudi Arabia's index slipped in early trading as investors cashed in gains from the previous day's 17-month high.
Saudi Arabia Fertilizers (Safco) dropped 4.4 percent after going ex-dividend.
Kingdom Holding fell 1.6 percent and Banque Saudi Fransi dropped 1.9 percent.
"Saudi Arabia will be the main proxy for the whole MENA region asset class because of its strong fundamentals, firm oil prices and budgetary spending," said Haissam Arabi, chief executive and fund manager at Gulfmena Alternative Investments.
The index slipped 0.2 percent to 6,683 points.
"The technicals give all indications for a flat market as it is currently above all near-term moving averages, giving the possibility of profit taking," said Mohammed Ishaq Ali, a Saudi-based finance professional.
"It is facing resistance at 6,720, but will find support at 6,675. However...the market is looking for some positive cues during the day to move upwards." (Reuters)