Saudi stocks recouped morning losses led all the way by the blue-chip banking and petrochemical stocks, with investors preferring to overlook the Turkish lira's freefall.
The benchmark index traded 0.5 per cent higher to close at 9,547 points with Al Rajhi Bank, Riyad Bank and Saudi British Bank joining Sabic, Saudi Kayan Petrochemical and Petro Rabigh to push the gauge higher. To add impetus, Saudi Aramco's chief executive said the firm was optimistic about the oil market and bullish about demand recovery.
Riding high on dividend, outlook
Aramco added to its gains by 0.4 per cent despite posting a 44 per cent plunge in 2020 profits as crude prices and sales came under pressure from activity slowing because of the virus impact. But Aramco announced its commitment to a full-year dividend of $75 billion.
Investors were further upbeat about Aramco's prospects after its CEO pledged that the firm will give China's energy security highest priority for the coming 50 years and beyond. The commitment comes after Saudi Arabia continued to be the top supplier to the world's biggest oil importer in the first two months.
Down on exposure
Dubai Financial Market underperformed GCC markets, shedding 1.2 per cent to 2,552 points. Financial sector dealt the biggest blow led by Emirates NBD, which plunged 3.5 per cent after the lira nosedived in reaction to the sacking of the central bank governor who raised the key interest rate to 19 per cent. Emirates NBD has significant Turkey exposure through its subsidiary DenizBank.
Key real estate stocks - Emaar Properties, Emaar Development and Damac - joined lenders in pulling the index lower despite buyers beginning to return to the market in recent months.
Etisalat marches on
Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange picked up 0.2 per cent at 5,733 points as First Abu Dhabi Bank and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank added to their values. But the single-biggest boost came from Etisalat, which remained unstoppable, climbing 0.4 per cent in what marked its 10th rise in the last 11 sessions. It received a tailwind from foreign ownership limit hike and special dividend payouts on top of regular full-year distributions.
Qatar Exchange closed slightly higher boosted by industrial stocks, while banking stocks lifted Kuwait's premier index and Bahrain shares. Oman's 30-company index dropped marginally with its banks moving sideways.