DUBAI: Most Gulf stock markets edged up on Wednesday after oil prices jumped, but the approach of the holy month of Ramadan limited gains because trading activity usually drops sharply during this period.
Saudi Arabia's Tadawul All-Share Index closed nearly flat at 9,543 points as stocks were mixed. Alinma Bank and Saudi Basic Industries Corp., the two most heavily traded stocks, both fell 0.3 percent.
However, leading retail bank Al-Rajhi, which could benefit from an anticipated US interest rate hike later this year, rose 1.2 percent as investors awaited a statement from the US Federal Reserve later in the day after its policy meeting.
Saudi Arabia opened its market to direct foreign investment this week, and some local investors had hoped this would energize stocks despite the approach of Ramadan, which begins on Thursday. But modest volumes in the first three days of trade after the opening indicate foreigners have been slow to buy stocks.
The latest exchange data showed no fresh, significant purchases by licensed foreign investors on Tuesday.
"It seems few (foreign institutions) are interested in or able to get qualified foreign investor status in Saudi Arabia," said Ilya Feygin, managing director at New York-based WallachBeth Capital.
Current high valuations for Saudi stocks and a requirement for same-day settlement of trades mean many foreigners are in no rush to enter Saudi Arabia. Many of those who do want to buy Saudi equities are content for now to continue doing so indirectly through channels such as participatory notes.
Dubai's main stock index edged up 0.2 percent to 4,088 points on Wednesday. Almost a third of traded value was in Dubai Parks and Resorts, which surged as much as 5 percent to a record high of 1.26 dirhams before trimming its gain to 1.7 percent.
The stock had jumped 2.6 percent on Tuesday, even though the company, which is building several theme parks, made no announcements and does not expect to make a profit until 2018.
The second most-traded stock was Amlak Finance, which tumbled 5.5 percent. Amlak has also been a target of speculative flows since it resumed trading this month after a six-year suspension during which it restructured debt.
Abu Dhabi's bourse closed 0.8 percent higher at 4,580 points as most blue chips rose. Telecommunications firm Etisalat climbed 0.9 percent and First Gulf Bank added 1.7 percent.
Qatar's index inched up 0.1 percent because of Industries Qatar, which rose 1.0 percent. Brent oil added about $1 on strong US demand on Wednesday, which was positive for the firm's petrochemicals business.
Egypt's index was flat with an equal split between gainers and losers. Heavyweight Commercial International Bank fell 0.6 percent to 57.95 Egyptian pounds, retreating further after it failed this week to break through technical resistance at its March and May peaks of 59.01-59.20 pounds.