Financial sector gives a push up to Gulf stocks

Major Gulf stock markets opened higher on Sunday,  enhanced by gains in the financial sector.

The Saudi index rose 0.3% as Al Rajhi Bank and National Commercial Bank advanced 0.3% and 0.5% respectively.

Among other gainers, United Electronics Company jumped 7.1% after reporting a 14.6% rise in fourth-quarter profit.

Almarai, the Gulf’s largest dairy firm, dropped 1.1 % after reporting a 15.9% fall in fourth-quarter profit to 311.9 million riyals ($83.1 million) after significant increases in sales, administration and general costs.

State-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco edged down 0.1% to 34.6 riyals, on track for a third decline in as many sessions.

Al Rajhi Capital Research rated the stock “neutral” in line with most other brokerages and set a target price of 37.5 riyals per share.

JPMorgan is the first major brokerage to initiate coverage of Saudi Aramco with an “overweight” rating, setting a price target of 37 riyals per share and saying it sees scope for an increase in the energy giant’s proposed $75 billion base dividend.

Dubai’s index added 0.9% as blue-chip developer Emaar Properties rose 1.4% and Dubai Islamic Bank gained 0.9%.

The Abu Dhabi index firmed by 0.1%, with First Abu Dhabi Bank also up 0.1%.

Qatar’s index was set for a seventh straight session of gains, edging up by 0.1%.

Qatar Islamic Bank rose 1.2% while Qatar National Bank gained 0.3%. Both lenders reported a rise in annual profit last week. ($1 = 3.7517 riyals) (Reporting by Maqsood Alam in Bengaluru Editing by David Goodman)