DUBAI - Major Gulf bourses fell in early trade on Thursday, in line with oil prices and Asian shares, on worries over higher US interest rates and growing concern about the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Saudi Arabia's benchmark index dropped 0.4 per cent, weighed by a 1.2 per cent fall in petrochemical maker Saudi Basic Industries Corp and a 0.4 per cent decline in Al Rajhi Bank.
Crude prices, a key catalyst for the Gulf's financial markets, fell from their highest levels in more than a month after US fuel stockpiles surged amid declining demand.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell nearly 1.5 per cent in afternoon trade before paring some losses after Federal Reserve meeting minutes pointed to a faster-than-expected rise in US rates due to concerns about persistent inflation.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, has cut February's official selling price for all grades of crude it is selling to Asia by at least $1 a barrel, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing three sources with knowledge of the matter.
Dubai's main share index (.DFMGI) retreated 1 per cent, hit by a 1.8 per cent drop in top lender Emirates NBD and a 1.5 per cent decline in sharia-compliant lender Dubai Islamic Bank.
In Abu Dhabi, the index (.ADI) eased 0.2 per cent, with the country's largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank losing 0.6 per cent.
The United Arab Emirates, the regional tourism and commercial hub, on Wednesday registered 2,708 new coronavirus infections as it hosts a world fair during its peak tourist season.
All six countries have identified Omicron in their territories - though their daily tallies do not break down the infections by variant.
The benchmark index (.QSI) in Qatar, which reported 2,273 new infections on Wednesday, was down 0.2 per cent.