DUBAI, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Gulf stock markets fell in early trade on Tuesday because of the global downturn in equities, but the region outperformed emerging markets in Asia, where MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares ex-Japan was down 3.7 percent.
Because of low oil prices and poor liquidity, the Gulf greatly underperformed the uptrend in global emerging markets last year, and fund managers say it may have less distance to fall on the way down.
The Saudi stock index fell 1.7 percent in the first 45 minutes with the biggest bank, National Commercial Bank , losing only 0.5 percent.
The bank reported a fourth-quarter net profit of 2.56 billion riyals ($683 million), up from 2.29 billion riyals a year ago. SICO Bahrain had forecast NCB would report a profit of 2.16 billion riyals.
Cement shares continued to pull back after big gains last week, with Jouf Cement down 2.7 percent.
Mediterranean & Gulf Cooperative Insurance and Reinsurance fell a further 5.8 percent, having lost almost 10 percent on each of the previous two days. The Capital Market Authority has 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.
But PetroRabigh added a further 1.3 percent after soaring 9.9 percent on Monday, when it reported a leap in fourth-quarter net profit.
Dubai's index fell 2.1 percent as falling stocks outnumbered gainers by 33 to two. Abu Dhabi's index sagged 1.1 percent as Dana Gas tumbled 4.0 percent.
In Qatar, the index lost 2.7 percent as falling stocks outnumbered gainers by 34 to two. Salam International Investment plunged 9.5 percent after dropping by its 10 percent daily limit on Monday, when it posted 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)