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DUBAI: Most stock markets in the Gulf ended lower on Monday, as investors tracked sluggish oil prices and global shares after rare protests in China against the country’s zero-COVID curbs roiled sentiment.

Crude prices - a key catalyst for the Gulf’s financial markets - fell close to their lowest this year as street protests against strict COVID-19 curbs in China, the world’s biggest crude importer, stoked concern over the outlook for fuel demand.

China has stuck with President Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy even as much of the world has lifted most restrictions.

Meanwhile, Group of Seven (G7) and European Union diplomats have been discussing a price cap on Russian oil of between $65 and $70 a barrel, with the aim of limiting revenue to fund Moscow’s military offensive in Ukraine without disrupting global oil markets.

Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index fell 0.5%, hit by a 2.8% fall in Retal Urban Development Co and a 2.6% decline in oil giant Saudi Aramco.

Dubai’s main share index dropped 0.5%, weighed down by a 1.5% fall in top lender Emirates NBD and a 1.3% decrease in Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.

In Abu Dhabi, the equities retreated 1.2%, dragged down by a 3.9% fall in the country’s biggest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank.

Europe’s benchmark STOXX index fell 0.9% in early trading after MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.2% as COVID protests raised investors’ concerns about growth implications for China.

The Qatari index dropped 0.9%, with Qatar Fuel Co falling 2.5%.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt’s blue-chip index dropped 0.7%, with top lender Commercial International Bank falling 0.8%.

Separately, Egypt’s state grains buyer will be able to make international wheat purchases through a newly launched exchange that is also aimed at eliminating local price distortions, its chairman said.

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