MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi Electricity surges before budget on price reform hopes
DUBAI Dec 28 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's stock market was generally little changed early on Monday as traders cautiously awaited the release of the kingdom's 2016 state budget, while Egypt recouped some of previous session's losses.
The Saudi index rose in the opening minutes but then came well off its highs and after 80 minutes of trade, was up just 0.2 percent.
However, Saudi Electricity Co (STC) and National Gas and Industrialization Co surged 9.9 and 6.8 percent respectively. The budget may include rises in electricity and natural gas feedstock prices, which could boost the bottom lines of Saudi Electricity while squeezing petrochemical firms.
"Before such a big announcement, speculative activities take the driver's seat," said Nateer al-Mahdi, a portfolio mananger at Saudi's Riyad Capital, adding that STC could be sold if electricity price rises were confirmed.
In an unprecendeted move, a senior official of state oil giant Saudi Aramco and the ministers of Economy and Planning, Finance, and Water and Electricity will appear at a news conference on the budget on Monday afternoon.
"The reforms may target the industrial sector before they impact the consumer," said Santhosh Balakrishnan, head of equity research at Riyad Capital.
"But what the markets are really looking for is indications as to which sectors will be mostly impacted as a result of those reforms."
In Egypt, Cairo's benchmark rose 0.5 percent in thin trade with second-tier stocks making solid gains. Arabia Investments and GB Auto were top performers, gaining 6.4 and 1.4 percent respectively. (Reporting by Celine Aswad; Editing by Andrew Torchia)
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