Saudi Arabia's stock market fell on Monday with most sectors turning red, led by the banks as investors focused on profit-taking after the market by far outperformed its major Gulf peers. Financial stocks also pulled Abu Dhabi down. Saudi Arabia's index was down 0.3 percent with its biggest lender, National Commercial Bank, decreasing 1.3 percent and Al Jazira Bank shedding 1.7 percent.
The Saudi index has got off to a strong start this year, taking many by surprise, with a 10 percent gain year-to-date after returning 8.3 percent in 2018. The rally has been led mainly by foreigners buying close to 4.4 billion riyals ($1.2 billion) through a qualified foreign investors' scheme and swaps last month in anticipation of inflows after Saudi Arabia is included in the FTSE and MSCI emerging market indexes later this year.
Saudi exchange weekly data shows foreign investors have been net buyers in all weeks this year and have bought 838.1 million riyals ($223.48 million) of stocks on a net basis the last week.
The Abu Dhabi index fell 0.6 percent after three straight sessions of gains as eight of its 10 financial stocks declined with First Abu Dhabi Bank, the United Arab Emirates' biggest lender, shedding 0.9 percent.
Gulf Medical Projects plunged 9.6 percent. The firm had last week reported a much lower profit for 2018.
In Dubai, the index traded flat with real estate shares helping and financial stocks hurting the index.
The emirate's biggest listed developer Emaar Properties and its unit Emaar Development gained 0.5 percent and 1.8 percent respectively. The stocks have risen in recent sessions after posting robust fourth-quarter earnings, boosting the index along.
Property firms, which were partly behind the index's poor performance last year, showed some sign of recovery reflected in the fourth-quarter results and increased construction contracts.
Construction contracts were up 4 percent year-over-year last month, and rose four times the lows seen in the preceding four months, SICO Research said in a note.
The real estate gains were offset by financial stocks, however, with Mashreq Bank slumping 10 percent in a very thin trade, while Shuaa Capital plunged 7.9 percent. Shuaa had last week reported a fourth-quarter loss compared with a profit a year earlier.
In Qatar, Qatar Fuel rose 2.5 percent. Drilling rig provider Gulf International Services, which slumped in the last two sessions after it had turned to a full-year loss, recouped some losses to rise 1.1 percent.
The Index was hit by a technical glitch which impacted displaying the index value. The stock exchange later said that it was working to fix the issue, but added that the stock prices are correct.
Egypt's blue-chip index was up 0.2 percent with developer Madinet Nasr For Housing And Development gaining 1 percent after it reported 19 percent rise it its full-year profit.