Saudi insurers posted significant gains on Sunday, on hopes that insurance volumes will rise as women began driving in Saudi Arabia, in the end of the world's last ban on female drivers.
This lifted the Saudi exchange, which outperformed other regional markets, and which was still riding the wave of MSCI's announcement last week that it would add the kingdom's stock market to its emerging markets benchmark.
Saudi Arabia's addition could help attract $40 billion from foreign funds, the chairman of the Saudi Capital Market Authority told Reuters last week. The move followed the decision by another index provider, FTSE Russell, to give Saudi Arabia emerging market status earlier this year.
The Saudi index rose 1.8 per cent on Sunday, with gains spread across the insurance, banking and petrochemical sectors.
Women in Saudi Arabia took to the roads early on Sunday. The decision is expected to boost the economy, with industries from car sales to insurance set to reap returns.
Insurance companies led the gains, with Al Rajhi Company for Cooperative Insurance up 10 per cent, followed by SABB Takaful Co and Saudi Indian Company for Cooperative Insurance, which added 7.9 per cent and 4.8 per cent, respectively.
Some petrochemical companies also added value, following a rise in oil prices after Opec decided on only modest increases in crude production last week.
In Dubai, where the index was flat, Air Arabia was unchanged. Shares in the airline have declined by more than 10 per cent since early last week, when the company said it had hired experts to protect its business interests in private equity firm Abraaj, which has filed for provisional liquidation.
Air Arabia subsequently said it has an exposure of more than $300 million to the embattled buyout firm.
Last week, the UAE's top securities regulator asked UAE-listed companies to declare their exposure to Abraaj, the watchdog's chief executive told Reuters.
In Abu Dhabi, Dana Gas jumped 0.9 per cent after its shareholders approved last week the issuance of a new sukuk to replace an existing sukuk issued in 2013. The shareholders also approved the dismissal of sukuk-related litigation, marking the end of a protracted legal battle between the firm and its creditors.
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