Stock markets in the United Arab Emirates ended lower on Monday after a top U.S. central bank policymaker pushed back against expectations of imminent rate cuts, while the Saudi index gained on rising oil prices.
New York Fed President John Williams said on Friday the central bank remained focused on bringing inflation down to its target of 2% and added it was just "premature" to discuss rate cuts at this point.
Most Gulf Cooperation Council countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, have their currencies pegged to the U.S. dollar and follow the Fed's policy moves closely, exposing the region to a direct impact from monetary tightening in the world's largest economy.
Dubai's main share index (.DFMGI) fell 0.3%, hit by a 1.5% fall in top lender Emirates NBD (ENBD.DU) and a 1.5% decrease in Taaleem Holdings (TAALEEM.DU).
In Abu Dhabi, the index (.FTFADGI) dropped 0.2%.
The Abu Dhabi bourse moved to the downside after a series of gains last week. The market could remain exposed to some risks with investors' expectations changing, said Daniel Takieddine, CEO MENA at BDSwiss.
"At the same time, the rebound in oil markets could provide some support."
Saudi Arabia's benchmark index (.TASI) advanced 0.7%, led by a 0.6% rise in oil giant Saudi Aramco (2222.SE) and a 3.4% increase in Saudi National Bank (1180.SE).
Oil rose as attacks by the Houthis on ships in the Red Sea raised concerns of oil supply disruptions, although scepticism around Russia's plan to cut exports in December limited gains.
Outside the Gulf, Egypt's blue-chip index (.EGX30) jumped 2.2%, ahead of presidential election results, as most of its constituents were in positive territory.
The results are due to be announced on Monday, with Abdel Fattah al-Sisi expected to secure a third term that would keep him in power till 2030 in a vote in which he faced no serious challengers.
*Markets in Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar were closed.