MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf flat to lower early on, Saudi cement stocks pull back

DUBAI, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Gulf stock markets were flat to lower in early trade on Monday, with Saudi Arabia seeing profit-taking in cement shares while real estate stocks remained weak in Dubai.

The region had already dropped on Sunday in response to Wall Street's Friday plunge, so Gulf markets far outperformed other bourses in Asia, where MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 1.3 percent on Monday afternoon.

The Saudi index slipped 0.3 percent in the first half-hour as Tabuk Cement pulled back 2.3 percent. Tabuk had jumped in the past several days on a media report that the government had started awarding contracts to build the huge NEOM business zone in the northwest of the country.

Many petrochemical shares were soft but PetroRabigh surged 5.4 percent after reporting fourth-quarter net profit jumped to 641 million riyals ($170.9 million) from 181 million riyals a year ago, as sales increased 27 percent.

Mediterranean & Gulf Cooperative Insurance and Reinsurance plunged a further 9.4 percent after losing 9.9 percent on Sunday, when the Capital Market Authority said it might suspend or cancel trade in the stock following the central bank's decision to prohibit the firm from issuing or renewing policies pending a capital increase.

Dubai's index was flat. Emaar Properties was 0.3 percent lower but construction firm Arabtec climbed 2.6 percent.

In Qatar, the index slid 0.7 percent but Qatar Islamic Bank gained 2.5 percent in unusually heavy trade.

Salam International Investment plunged its 10 percent daily limit after posting an annual net loss of 89.9 million riyals ($24.7 million) versus a year-earlier profit of 119.7 million riyals. (Reporting by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Jon Boyle)