Petrochemical and telecommunications stocks boosted Saudi Arabia's bourse early on Thursday while Egypt fell after poor economic data.
The Saudi index added 0.8 percent in the first hour of trade as petrochemical producer Saudi Kayan climbed 1 percent after announcing the start of commercial operations at a new butanol plant. Saudi Basic Industries rose 1.3 percent.
Telecommunications firm Mobily climbed 2.9 percent to 31.60 riyals. In a research note, NCB Capital described the Saudi telecoms sector as "a safe haven from the impact of oil volatility and lower government spending", though it gave a "neutral" rating to Mobily with a target of 31.90 riyals.
Yanbu Cement was flat after reporting an 11 percent year-on-year drop in quarterly net profit to 184 million riyals (US$50.1 million). This was roughly in line with expectations; Albilad Capital had forecast 187 million.
Egypt's index fell 0.5 percent after a monthly purchasing managers' survey showed business activity shrank for the sixth straight month in March, with declines in new orders and output causing the biggest contraction in the index for more than two and a half years.
Qalaa Holdings, which had soared by more than a third since mid-March before its rise stalled this week, was the most heavily traded stock and pulled back a further 2.5 percent.