MIDEAST STOCKS Saudi index firms as other Gulf markets remain subdued

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Major Gulf stock markets were little changed in early trade on Sunday, though the Saudi index was up 0.4% to extend gains from the previous four sessions.

Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index was buoyed by Al Rajhi Bank advancing by 0.8% while Saudi Telecom Company was up 0.6%.

In a blow for the Saudi economy the kingdom has restricted the annual haj pilgrimage to its own citizens and residents for the second year running in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

It also set a maximum of 60,000 participants, a fraction of the 2.5 million that would visit the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina before the pandemic for the week-long haj and the year-round umrah pilgrimage, which together earned the kingdom about $12 billion a year, official data shows.

In Abu Dhabi, the index eased by 0.1%, hit by a 0.7% decline for the country’s largest lender, First Abu Dhabi Bank .

From June 15 Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) second-most populous emirate, will limit entry to shopping centres, restaurants, cafes and other public places to those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or recently tested negative for the coronavirus.

Daily coronavirus cases in the UAE, a federation of seven emirates, have risen over the past three weeks.

Dubai’s main share index traded flat as gains in property shares were offset by declines in financial stocks.

In Qatar, the benchmark index edged up 0.1%, helped by a 0.6% gain for petrochemicals company Industries Qatar.

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