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Gulf markets subdued on geopolitical tensions, US rate cut concerns

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By Ateeq Shariff

April 21 (Reuters) -Most stock markets in the Gulf were subdued on Sunday amid geopolitical strife and uncertainties surrounding U.S. Federal Reserve policy.

In its first ever direct attack on Israel, Iran sent a barrage of more than 300 missiles and drones on April 13 in what it said was retaliation for Israel's suspected deadly strike on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei thanked the country's armed forces for their attack on Israel, saying the country had demonstrated its power regardless of how many targets were hit, Iran's official news agency reported on Sunday.

Elsewhere Chicago Federal Reserve President Austan Goolsbee said on Friday progress on bringing down inflation had "stalled" this year, becoming the latest U.S. central banker to drop an earlier focus on the coming need for interest rate cuts.

Among individual Middle East markets, Saudi Arabia's benchmark index .TASI edged 0.1% higher, helped by a 2.6% rise in ACWA Power 2082.SE.

The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday Middle East economies would grow at a slower pace this year than it previously projected, as the war in Gaza, attacks on Red Sea shipping and lower oil output add to existing challenges of high debt and borrowing costs.

The IMF revised down its 2024 growth forecast for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to 2.7% from 3.4% in its October regional outlook.

The Qatari benchmark .QSI dropped 0.4%, hit by a 1.6% fall in petrochemical maker Industries Qatar IQCD.QA and a 1% drop in Qatar Islamic Bank QISB.QA.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt's blue-chip index .EGX30 advanced 1%, after falling more than 4% in the previous sessions, led by a 1.4% rise in top lender Commercial International Bank COMI.CA.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Egypt's net foreign assets (NFAs) deficit fell in March to its lowest in more than two years, apparently helped by a giant sale of property development rights and a reform of the currency, data posted on the CBE website showed.


.TASI rose 0.1% to 12,518


.QSI dropped 0.4% to 9,792


.EGX30 gained 1% to 28,623


.BAX eased 0.2% to 2,017


.MSX30 fell 0.3% to 4,704


.BKP added 0.9% to 7,643

Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by David Holmes


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