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Building shares move higher ahead of Saudi budget

A view shows the construction of the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh. Saudi construction and cement stocks have gained in anticipation of higher infrastructure spending from the budget. (Reuters)
DUBAI: Middle Eastern stock markets edged up in quiet trade on Sunday, with construction and building materials stocks boosting Saudi Arabia ahead of the release of its 2018 state budget this week.
Saudi Arabia’s index added 0.3 percent as builder Khodari surged 7.6 percent in its heaviest trade since January. Najran Cement gained 4.5 percent and in addition to Khodari, the 10 best-performing stocks featured six cement producers.
The state budget, to be announced on Tuesday, is expected to be modestly expansionary and include a rise in infrastructure spending after two years of austerity.
Real estate firm Dar Al-Arkan, the most heavily traded stock, fell back 3.6 percent after soaring in the last several weeks.
The Dubai index edged up 0.3 percent as construction firm Drake & Scull, which operates in Saudi Arabia, was the most heavily traded stock, rising 1.4 percent.
The Kuwait stock index added 0.4 percent after surging 1.5 percent on Thursday. Kuwait Finance House climbed 0.7 percent.
Other Gulf Arab central banks, whose currencies are pegged to the US dollar, raised interest rates in the wake of the US Federal Reserve’s hike last Wednesday.
But Kuwait, citing a desire to boost economic growth, did not tighten monetary policy; it manages its dinar against a dollar-dominated basket, which gives it more flexibility in policy.
In Egypt, the index climbed 0.3 percent as Egypt Gas, which handles natural gas engineering and maintenance work, soared 10 percent.
The company is expected to benefit from work related to Egypt’s giant Zohr gas field, where pilot production of gas started this month.
At the end of last week Egypt Gas forecast 2018 revenues of 2.61 billion Egyptian pounds ($146 million) and net profit of 24.6 million pounds, compared to revenue of 1.10 billion pounds and a net loss of 57 million pounds in the first nine months of this year.
Markets in Qatar and Bahrain were closed for national holidays.
— Reuters

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