April 12 (Reuters) – Most major stock markets in the Gulf rose in early trade on Monday, supported by gains in their financial stocks, although Saudi bucked the trend to trade lower.

The benchmark index in Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy, fell 0.9%, with Saudi National Bank, the kingdom’s top lender, declining 2%, while Banque Saudi Fransi retreated 3.2%.

The International Monetary Fund said on Sunday countries in the Middle East and Central Asia need to curb their financing requirements, as a surge in government debt, exacerbated by the pandemic, threatens recovery prospects.

Lower demand and a slump in commodity prices eroded state finances last year. In the Middle East and North Africa, fiscal deficits widened to 10.1% of GDP in 2020 from 3.8% of GDP in 2019.

The crisis led many countries to raise debt, partly taking advantage of abundant liquidity in the global markets, to afford extra spending needed to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

In Dubai, the benchmark index added 0.2%, helped by a 0.9% increase in Emirates NBD Bank and a 1.6% rise in budget airliner Air Arabia.

The Abu Dhabi index rose 0.3%, with telecoms firm Etisalat rising 0.9% and the country’s largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank up 0.3%.


In Qatar, the index increased 0.3%, led by a 1.1% gain in petrochemical firm Industries Qatar.

Elsewhere, Qatar National Bank (QNB), the biggest lender in the Gulf, added 0.6%.

On Sunday, the lender reported its first quarter net profit of 3.3 billion riyals ($906.22 million), down by 7% from a year earlier as it booked 1.4 billion riyals in “precautionary” loan-loss provisions.

However, QNB’s total assets grew by 8% from a year earlier to 1.042 trillion riyals at the end of March, the bank said in a statement. ($1 = 3.6415 Qatar riyals) (Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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