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DUBAI: Most major Gulf stock markets ended higher on Thursday after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised its economic forecasts for the region, while the Saudi index closed flat as some stocks traded ex-dividend.

The IMF said on Wednesday it expected most Gulf economies to recover this year at a faster pace than previously estimated, as it raised its 2021 global growth forecast to 6% from 5.5%.

In Dubai, the main share index rose 0.9% on the back of a 2.2% rise in Emirates NBD Bank after the lender said on Wednesday that it would sell a controlling stake in Dubai Bank to Eradah Capital.

Emaar Properties gained 1.7% as its managing director said the company achieved first-quarter sales of 6 billion dirhams ($1.63 billion), compared with 2.5 billion dirhams a year earlier.

Abu Dhabi’s index added 0.4%, bolstered by a 0.8% increase in the country’s largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank %.

In Qatar, the benchmark gained 0.4% as Gulf’s largest lender Qatar National Bank rose 0.8% ahead of its first-quarter results on Sunday.

But Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index traded flat, with Banque Saudi Fransi falling 1.9%.

Saudi cement company and Alinma Bank fell 3.6% and 1.3%, respectively, as the duo traded ex-dividend.

Separately, Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange has converted itself into a holding company and will be renamed Saudi Tadawul Group ahead of its initial public offering this year, Group CEO Khalid Al-Hussan said on Wednesday.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt’s blue-chip index closed 0.7% higher, with Cleopatra Hospital advancing 7.7%.

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