Most Gulf stock markets fell on Monday, tracking volatile oil prices, while Egypt's bourse jumped after energy major Eni announced a potentially huge natural gas discovery off the country's coast.
The main Saudi Tadawul All-Share Index dropped 2.2 percent to 7,522 points, closing August with a 17.3 percent loss, its biggest monthly drop since October 2008. Like other Gulf markets, it swung wildly during the month in response to oil price changes; at its bottom on Aug. 24, the benchmark was 30.9 percent downmonth-to-date.
All sectors fell on Monday as Brent oil dipped back below $49 a barrel, pressured by a supply glut and renewed concern about a hard landing for China's economy.
Al-Tayyar Travel tumbled 5.7 percent after the firm said its founder Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar would resign as vice-chairman and managing director from Sept. 1.
News that Saudi Arabia's real gross domestic product growth accelerated to 3.8 percent year-on-year in the second quarter from 2.3 percent in the first, hitting its fastest rate since the first quarter of 2014, failed to improve market sentiment.
Analysts expect growth to slow in coming quarters as there will be relatively little room for further oil output increases and consumer spending.
Elsewhere in the Gulf, Dubai's index fell 0.7 percent with most stocks in the red. But property developer DAMAC, the most traded stock, jumped 2.1 percent ahead of a Sept. 15 shareholder meeting which will vote on the firm's first cash dividend payout since its listing in the emirate in January.
Dubai's index closed August 11.6 percent lower; it was down 17.9 percent month-to-date at its Aug. 24 low.
Abu Dhabi's benchmark, on the other hand, climbed 0.9 percent on Monday, supported by banks. First Gulf Bank surged 3.2 percent and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank was up 1.8 percent.
Qatar's bourse outperformed the Gulf, gaining 2 percent thanks to upcoming adjustments to MSCI's emerging markets index.
Property developer Ezdan Holding, one of the stocks whose weighting in the benchmark is increasing from Sept. 1, surged 7.8 percent. Passively managed funds, which replicate indexes, usually adjust their positions on the last trading day before index reviews take effect.
Commercial Bank of Qatar, another Doha stock whose weighting is set to increase, gained 4 percent.
Egypt's bourse, which had initially edged down on Monday in line with other emerging markets, erased its losses and jumped 2.8 percent.
Ezz Steel was the top gainer, surging to its daily 10 percent limit after Eni announced the discovery of a natural gas field off the Egyptian coast on Sunday, which it said might prove able to meet the country's energy needs for decades.
As a major energy consumer, Ezz Steel is suffering from gas shortages, and a boost to supply could allow it to ramp up production, analysts said.
"We consider this development could potentially translate into a re-rating of all the major energy-intensive companies in the country," NBK Capital said in a note on Monday.
"Over the past two years, gas unavailability has translated into significant lower operating rates and/or shrinking margins across the industries, specifically fertilisers, steel and cement."
Another big gainer was carpet maker Oriental Weavers, which surged 9 percent. Polypropylene, which is used to make fibers and is one of the firm's main cost components, is produced from oil and will become cheaper if crude remains depressed.
Also aiding overall investor sentiment, Egypt on Sunday announced it would hold a long-awaited parliamentary election in two phases starting on Oct. 18-19, the final step of a roadmapB to formal democracy.