MIDEAST STOCKS-Region mostly soft, some Saudi stocks surge on positive news


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* Qatar pulls back after two days of big gains on ownership news

* Qatar Insurance sinks before removal from FTSE indexes

* Al Rajhi Bank retreats in Saudi Arabia

* But Saudi Automotive surges on plan for capital increase

* United Electronics jumps after analysts raise price targets

By Andrew Torchia

DUBAI, March 14 (Reuters) – Most Middle Eastern stock markets were soft on Wednesday with Qatar pulling back after two days of strong gains, but a few individual stocks in Saudi Arabia rose sharply in response to positive news.

The Qatari index, which had surged 6.7 percent in the previous two days as heavyweights Qatar National Bank and Industries Qatar soared after announcing plans to raise their foreign ownership ceilings, fell back 0.6 percent.

QNB slipped 2.0 percent and Industries Qatar retreated 0.9 percent. Qatar Insurance sank 8.4 percent in its heaviest trade since May 2015; at the end of this week, it will be removed from several FTSE global indexes.

Islamic insurer Al Khaleej Takaful tumbled 9.1 percent after saying on Tuesday that it would distribute no dividend for 2017, after the central bank asked it to recognise an impairment provision.

In Saudi Arabia, the index was almost flat amid profit-taking in banks and petrochemicals. Al Rajhi Bank , into which foreign money has been pouring in anticipation of Saudi Arabia being upgraded to emerging market status later this year, pulled back 2.2 percent.

But stocks with positive news were heavily traded, showing underlying market sentiment remained strong. Saudi Automotive Services jumped 3.7 percent after its board proposed a capital increase to 600 million riyals ($160 million) from 540 million riyals, using retained earnings, to fund expansion.

Retailer United Electronics climbed 6.9 percent to 67.30 riyals. EFG Hermes raised its target price for the stock to 90 riyals from 50 riyals and, earlier this month, CI Capital raised its target by 38 percent to 80 riyals.

National Petrochemical continued to rocket after announcing very strong annual earnings at the end of last week. It soared a further 8.1 percent.

Dubai’s index was also almost flat as builder Drake & Scull surged 2.8 percent.

SAUDI ARABIA * The index edged down 0.03 percent to 7,775 points.

DUBAI * The index edged up 0.02 percent to 3,167 points.

ABU DHABI * The index fell 0.4 percent to 4,519 points.

QATAR * The index dropped 0.6 percent to 8,750 points.

EGYPT * The index lost 0.6 percent to 16,882 points.

KUWAIT * The index rose 0.3 percent to 6,748 points.

BAHRAIN * The index was flat at 1,361 points.

OMAN * The index edged down 0.1 percent to 4,895 points.


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