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DUBAI: Stock markets in the Gulf ended higher on Sunday after cooling US inflation lifted expectations the Federal Reserve would slow its pace of interest rate hikes.

The US central bank’s preferred gauge for inflation slowed in December, the government reported on Friday, hitting its lowest level since September 2021.

The Fed will end its tightening cycle after a 25-basis-point hike at each of its next two policy meetings and then likely hold interest rates steady for at least the rest of the year, according to most economists in a Reuters poll.

Most Gulf currencies are pegged to the US dollar, while Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar usually mirror US monetary policy changes.

Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index rose 0.2%, supported by gains in financial and energy sector stocks.

Saudi oil giant Aramco inched up 0.3%, and the world’s largest Islamic bank by market capitalization, Al Rajhi Bank rose 1.6%.

The Qatari Stock index rose 0.4%, with most of its constituent stocks in positive territory. The Gulf’s biggest lender Qatar National Bank continued its rally with a 0.9% gain and Commercial Bank continued its rally since Monday, settling 2.6% after it climbed 10% on Thursday.

The bank reported Tuesday a more than 22% rise in FY net profit, beating analyst’s expectations.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt’s blue-chip index surged 3.7%, its highest intraday rise since November.

The index was helped by a 14.7% jump in Telecom Egypt and Commercial International Bank Egypt jumping 6.1%.

Among other gainers, Alexandria Container And Cargo Handling and Abu Qir Fertilizers And Chemical Industries rose 2.4% and 0.5% respectively after they reported rises in half year net profit.

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