* Moderately expansion Saudi budget seen as positive
* But budget news had largely been factored in
* Room for additional stimulus in coming years looks limited
* Qatar stalls after leap on Tuesday
* Tabreed unusually heavily traded in Dubai
By Andrew Torchia
DUBAI, Dec 20 (Reuters) – Gulf stock markets moved little on Wednesday as Saudi Arabian cement shares lost steam after the release of the 2018 state budget, and Qatar’s market pulled back after a leap on Tuesday.
The Saudi index edged up 0.2 percent as cement shares, which had surged in the days before the release of the budget as investors anticipated an increase in infrastructure spending, ran into profit-taking. Yanbu Cement fell 1.8 percent.
The budget was seen positively by the market; the government said it planned to increase total spending to a record 978 billion riyals ($261 billion) in 2018, from 890 billion riyals in the original 2017 budget plan and 926 billion riyals of actual spending this year. King Salman formally announced the target date for eliminating the budget deficit would be pushed back to 2023 from 2020.
“In our view the budget is expansionary – it calls for the right approach,” said Santhosh Balakrishnan, assistant vice-president at Riyad Capital.
“What lies ahead is the green shoots of recovery in construction-allied sectors, especially cement. This suggests the worst is behind us.”
But a moderately expansionary budget had already largely been priced into the stock market, and there are still doubts about the effectiveness of some of the planned stimulus steps, such as offers of soft loans extended by state funds.
London-based Capital Economics said actual 2017 spending data showed the government had already started to loosen fiscal policy earlier than expected, and because of this, Capital raised its economic growth forecast for 2018 to 1.5 percent from 0.8 percent.
“That said, the budget is likely to disappoint those who were hoping for substantial policy loosening to support the economy,” it said, adding that unless there was a significant, further rise in oil prices, there would be little room for the government to provide additional stimulus to the economy in the next five years.
In Qatar, the index edged down 0.03 percent in active trade after surging 3.8 percent on Tuesday to its highest level since late September as retail investors flocked back into the market.
Dubai’s index rose 0.3 percent on the back of a 2.3 percent gain by blue chip Emaar Properties, which has been trading near its lows for the year.
But its affiliate Emaar Development, which listed last month after an initial public offer at a price of 6.03 dirhams a share, fell 1.3 percent to a record closing low of 5.15 dirhams.
District cooling firm Tabreed, which is usually thinly traded, was the most active stock and dropped 1.1 percent. The stock recorded its highest volume since June.
* The index edged up 0.2 percent to 7,213 points.
* The index rose 0.3 percent to 3,370 points.
* The index fell 0.2 percent to 4,359 points.
* The index edged down 0.03 percent to 8,520 points.
* The index edged up 0.03 percent to 14,682 points.
* The index fell 0.6 percent to 6,384 points.
* The index dropped 0.3 percent to 1,265 points.
* The index was flat at 5,070 points. (reporting by Andrew Torchia Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)