Gulf stock markets were narrowly mixed on Wednesday, guided largely by announced and expected dividends, as weaker oil prices made investors cautious about opening new positions.
Brent crude fell more than 2 percent and traded near $61 per barrel by 1230 GMT, after surging over the past two weeks and prompting equity rallies across the Gulf.
Saudi Arabia's bourse, where petrochemicals are heavily weighted, had benefited the most from firmer oil. With year-to-date gains of 12.9 percent, the market has outperformed all other major bourses in the Middle East.
On Wednesday, the main Saudi stock index edged down 0.4 percent and Saudi Basic Industries, the Gulf's biggest petrochemicals firm, fell 1.3 percent.
National Industrialization Co (Tasnee), which also has interests in petrochemicals, lost 1.3 percent after it proposed a 2014 dividend of 1.00 riyal per share, down from 1.50 riyals a year earlier.
Alkhaleej Training and Education Co dropped 3.8 percent, having cut its 2014 cash dividend to 0.80 riyal from 0.86 riyal in 2013.
Mecca Property firm Jabal Omar pulled back 0.9 percent after surging 24 percent in the previous four sessions on strong financial results and news that the government was seeking to speed up the development of the Muslim holy city.
Dubai's stock index slipped 0.3 percent as telecommunications operator du dropped 2.8 percent and was the main drag. The company plans to report its fourth-quarter results early on Thursday and the stock had surged 5.3 percent in the previous session.
Property developer DAMAC added 1.0 percent and was the most traded stock by value. The firm plans to issue bonus shares instead of a cash dividend for 2014, but has not yet announced an exact date for that.
Abu Dhabi edged up 0.3 percent. Aldar Properties , the most traded stock, climbed 1.5 percent to 2.68 dirhams after HSBC raised its rating of the stock to “overweight” from “neutral” and increased the price target to 3.90 dirhams from 3.80 dirhams.
Qatar's benchmark inched up 0.1 percent as Qatar National Qatar Bank rose 1.5 percent. But Qatar Electricity and Water Co, whose shares stopped carrying the 2014 dividend, tumbled 4.3 percent.
Egypt's bourse rose 1.1 percent in a broad rally after undergoing a profit-taking bout this week.
Ezz Steel jumped 3.3 percent, having tumbled 4.7 percent in the previous session after posting a wider third-quarter net loss.
Analysts expect the company's performance to improve in the fourth quarter and this year; Egypt introduced anti-dumping fees on all steel imports last October for a period of 200 days.
“The Chamber of Metallurgical Industries as well as the local producers are also bargaining to extend the protectionism policy beyond the designated timeframe,” Egypt's Prime brokerage said in a note. “This should support both selling prices and volumes.”