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Saudi Shares Gain as Signs U.S. Economy Growing Lift Oil Outlook

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Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabian shares rose after signs of an improving U.S. economy and progress on a bailout for Greece bolstered the outlook for fuel demand.

Southern Province Cement Co., the kingdom’s biggest cement producer by market value, reached its highest intraday price since August 2006. National Industrialization Co., known as Tasnee, rose for the fifth day in six.

The Tadawul All Share Index rose 0.3 percent to 6,830.31 at the 3:30 p.m. close in Riyadh. More than four stocks rose for every stock that fell. The 151-member measure has gained 6.4 percent this year.

“The market is gaining momentum on positive data from global markets and after the Dow Jones rose to its highest level in more than three years,” said Turki Fadaak, head of research at Riyadh-based Albilad Investment Co. “Investors are also optimistic the Greek debt issue will be resolved this Monday.”

Oil for March delivery rose 0.9 percent to $103.24 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest settlement price since May 10. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, depended on oil for 93 percent of its revenue in 2011.

Applications for unemployment insurance payments in the U.S. dropped 13,000 in the week ended Feb. 11 to 348,000, the Labor Department said Feb. 16. The Commerce Department reported yesterday that U.S. builders broke ground on more homes than forecast in January and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s general economic index rose this month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.4 percent in New York yesterday to 12,949.87, the highest close since May 19, 2008.

Conference Call

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos discussed a second Greek bailout on a conference call and are optimistic finance ministers will resolve remaining issues when they meet on Feb. 20, according to Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman.

Southern Province gained 2.4 percent to 95.25 riyals ($25.40). The government halted exports of cement and clinker to prevent shortages of the products and stabilize prices in the western region, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said on its website on Feb. 13. Southern Province is required to regularly supply that area, it said.

Tasnee rose 0.7 percent to 41 riyals. Riyad Bank, the kingdom’s third largest publicly traded lender by market value advanced to the highest closing price since Aug. 15, rising 0.8 percent to 24.35 riyals.

Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange is the only Gulf Arab bourse that opens on Saturdays.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mourad Haroutunian in Riyadh at mharoutunian@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Shaji Mathew at shajimathew@bloomberg.net

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