Most major GCC stock markets closed higher on Monday as optimism about China’s energy demand outlook and a less dramatic rise in US interest rates dampened investor concerns, but the Qatar Stock Exchange widened its losses. Oil prices, the main driver of financial markets in the Gulf states, fell, but optimism that the lifting of restrictions to combat coronavirus in China, the world’s largest importer of crude oil, will lead to increased demand for fuel in the Asian country, kept prices at the highest levels in 2023. The Saudi Arabian index closed unchanged after shares in Retal Urban Development Company rose 1.1% and shares in the Saudi Arabian Mining Company fell in the second session to close up 2.4%. The Abu Dhabi index rose 0.5 percent, with First Abu Dhabi Bank up 1.4 percent and Aldar Properties up 2.3 percent. Federal Reserve policymakers on Thursday expressed relief that inflation will continue to fall in December, paving the way for a less aggressive rate hike of perhaps a quarter point when the central bank meets in less than three weeks. Most Gulf currencies are pegged to the dollar, and Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates generally follow any change in US monetary policy. The Dubai index closed up 0.3%, helped by a 1.4% gain in Emirates Central Cooling Systems Corporation (Empower) and a 0.8% gain in Emirates NBD Bank. Meanwhile, the UAE has decided to invest $30 billion in South Korean industry as part of the two countries’ efforts to expand economic cooperation. The Qatari index fell 1.1% for the fifth consecutive session, with almost all bank stocks falling. The National Bank of Qatar lost the most, falling 3.2%, while the Islamic Bank of Qatar fell 3.4%.