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Major stock markets in the Gulf ended lower on Thursday as investors remained cautious amid falling oil prices and U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s hawkish tone on rates.

Crude oil prices - a key catalyst for the Gulf’s financial markets - dropped on Thursday with Brent crude down 2.4% at $75.21 a barrel at 1314 GMT.

In Qatar, the benchmark index slumped 1.3%, extending losses to a third straight session with most sectors in the red.

The index was dragged down by a 5% decline in Qatar Aluminum Manufacturing Company and 2.4% drop in Estithmar Holding.

Among the losers, the region’s largest lender Qatar National Bank and Masraf Al Rayan lost 2.5% and 1.3% respectively.

Dubai’s benchmark index eased 0.2%, weighed down by a 3.5% decline in Mashreqbank and a 2% drop in low-cost flyer Air Arabia.

The emirate’s largest lender Emirates NBD lost 0.7%.

Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index fell 0.1%, with Alinma Bank dropping 1.5% and Almarai Co sliding 2.3%.

Gulf bourses end mixed on China growth concerns

Elsewhere, First Milling Co, which rose as much as 30%, closed 17.5% higher in debut trade.

In Abu Dhabi, the index continued its gains for a fifth consecutive session, ending 0.4% higher.

The conglomerate International Holding rose 0.5% and its subsidiary Alpha Dhabi Holding jumped 10.5%, the sharpest intraday rise since November.

However, the United Arab Emirates’ biggest lender, First Abu Dhabi Bank dropped 1.5%.

Fed chair Powell in his remarks to lawmakers in Washington said the outlook for two further 25-basis-point (bps) rate increases are “a pretty good guess” of where the central bank is heading if the economy continues in its current direction.

Most Gulf currencies are pegged to the dollar and any monetary policy change in the United States is usually mimicked by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt’s blue-chip index snapped a three-session losing streak and rose marginally with Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals gaining 1.7% and Qalaa Holdings surging 7.2%.

However, Commercial International Bank and E-Finance lost 0.6% and 1.5% respectively.

Separately, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) is expected to leave its overnight interest rates unchanged on Thursday.

==========================================
 SAUDI ARABIA      lost 0.1% to 11,459
 KUWAIT            ended flat at 7,835
 QATAR             dropped 1.3% to 10,106
 EGYPT             ended flat at 17,713
 BAHRAIN           added 0.2% to 1,961
 OMAN              gained 0.2% to 4,731
 ABU DHABI         added 0.4% to 9,528
 DUBAI             lost 0.2% to 3,776
==========================================

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