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MIDEAST STOCKS-Abu Dhabi slips further, banks support Saudi market

DUBAI, March 31 (Reuters) - Stock markets in the Gulf were mixed on Sunday with Abu Dhabi experiencing losses after some shares traded ex-dividend last week, while the Saudi market was lifted by the banking sector.

The Saudi index added 0.4 percent, with Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corporation up 1.7 percent and registering the highest trading volume on Sunday.

In a research note, Dubai-based Arqaam Capital said it expects credit growth to strengthen in Saudi Arabia this year, a positive for the banking sector.

Banks such as National Commercial Bank, the merged entity combining Saudi British Bank and Alawwal Bank , and Banque Saudi Fransi are seen "as best positioned to benefit from the new corporate growth opportunities in the second half of the year, while Al Rajhi should remain ahead in consumer lending," Arqaam said.

Abu Dhabi's index shed 0.5 percent with heavyweight First Abu Dhabi Bank falling 0.4 percent and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) losing 1.6 percent.

Last week, blue-chip Aldar Properties led the drop, shedding 5.7 percent as it traded ex-dividend. The stock was little changed on Sunday.

Dana Gas added 1.1 percent after announcing it had received $19 million from Egypt.

The Dubai index added 0.1 percent, lifted by heavyweight Emaar Properties, which gained 2.1 percent and was the most heavily traded stock on Sunday.

In Qatar, the index fell 0.4 percent as Masraf Al Rayan gave up 1.8 percent, Qatar International Islamic Bank lost 2.9 percent, and Barwa Real Estate fell 1.8 percent.

Commercial Bank gained 2.3 percent.

SAUDI ARABIA The index rose 0.4 pct to 8,819 points ABU DHABI The index lost 0.5 pct to 5,075 points DUBAI The index rose 0.1 pct to 2,635 points QATAR The index lost 0.4 pct at 10,107 points EGYPT The index rose 0.5 pct to 14,744 points KUWAIT The index rose 0.5 pct to 5,987 points OMAN The index fell 0.6 pct to 3,984 points BAHRAIN The index was flat at 1,413 points (Reporting by Davide Barbuscia and Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Susan Fenton)