Feb 8 (Reuters) - Gulf stock markets tarded higher on Wednesday after less-hawkish comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell lifted sentiment and fuelled investor hopes that it may soon ease monetary policy.
In an eagerly awaited speech earlier on Tuesday, the Fed's Powell reiterated that disinflation has begun.
With less-aggressive interest rate hikes in the United States, the market is hoping the world's biggest economy and oil consumer can dodge a sharper slowdown in economic activity or even a recession and avoid a slump in oil demand.
Most Gulf Cooperation Council countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, have their currencies pegged to the U.S. dollar and follow the Fed's policy moves closely, exposing the region to a direct impact from monetary tightening in the world's largest economy.
The Qatari Stock index rose 0.4%, lifted by gains in almost all sectors with Qatar Insurance jumping 5.5%, and heavyweight Islamic bank Qatar Islamic Bank climbing 1.1%.
Gulf's largest lender Qatar National Bank rose 0.4%, recouping losses after two sessions of decline.
Dubai's benchmark stock index rose marginally with Emaar Properties rising 1.1% and tolls operator Salik gaining 0.8%. But, Dubai's biggest lender Emirates NBD and Emirates Central Cooling declined 0.7% and 0.6%, respectively.
Saudi Arabia's stock index edged 0.1% higher to snap seven sessions of losses. The benchmark index was aided by energy and healthcare sectors with oil giant Saudi Aramco rising 0.5% and Dr Sulaiman Al-Habib Medical gaining 0.3%.
The luxury real estate developer Retal Urban and Saudi British Bank fell 0.6% and 3.1%, respectively.
In Abu Dhabi, the benchmark stock index opened 0.2% higher, supported by a nearly 1% gain in Alpha Dhabi and 0.8% rise in largest lender by assets, First Abu Dhabi Bank.
Abu Dhabi National Hotels jumped 4.4% after the lender reported an increase in its full-year net profit.
Reporting by Md Manzer Hussain; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips