* Dubai the worst-performing Gulf market this year
* Signs of funds buying back into Emaar on valuation
* Lowest trading volume in Saudi Arabia this year
* Saudi Investment Bank climbs after Q4 earnings beat
* Egypt’s QNB Alahly heavily traded after parent says to cut stake
By Andrew Torchia
DUBAI, Feb 21 (Reuters) - A wave of buying in beaten down blue-chip stock Emaar Properties boosted the Dubai market on Wednesday while most of the region traded quietly in modest volumes.
Dubai’s index firmed by 0.5 percent, but remains the Gulf’s worst-performing index this year with a decline of 2.5 percent, partly because of a sustained slump in the emirate’s real estate market.
However, the bourse was lifted on Wednesday as Emaar, which had been trading near 14-month lows, surged by 3.2 percent to 6.22 dirhams in its heaviest volume this year. It is still down nearly 5 percent since the start of the year.
The increase in volume suggested that some funds were buying back stock on valuation grounds. It had reached a trailing price-earnings ratio of about 7.6 times, according to Thomson Reuters data. That is not expensive by the standards of several Asian markets, where real estate stocks are at multiples of 9-12 times earnings.
Of 12 analysts rating Emaar Properties, 10 have a “buy” or “strong buy” rating and none have a “sell”, Thomson Reuters data shows. Their median target for the stock is 9.45 dirhams.
The Saudi Arabia index was flat in its lowest volumes this year. Najran Cement fell 3.8 percent after it swung to an annual net loss of 21.9 million riyals ($5.8 million) from a profit of 125.7 million riyals.
But Saudi Investment Bank added 1.7 percent after reporting a 16 percent rise in fourth-quarter net profit to 352 million riyals. NCB Capital had forecast 301 million riyals and EFG Hermes 302 million riyals.
Egypt’s blue-chip index edged up 0.2 percent. QNB Alahly surged 2.4 percent as 13.6 million shares changed hands, the biggest volume since 2005.
The bank’s parent, Qatar National Bank, said this week that it would sell a 2.125 percent stake in QNB Alahly to comply with Cairo listing rules on free floats. The bank has slightly more than 890 million shares outstanding.
* Index was flat at 7,506 points.
* Index rose 0.5 percent to 3,286 points.
* Index edged up 0.1 percent to 4,584 points.
* The index added 0.2 percent to 9,119 points.
* Index gained 0.2 percent to 15,244 points.
* Index rose 0.3 percent to 6,701 points.
* Index gained 0.5 percent to 1,352 points.
* Index fell 0.3 percent to 4,987 points. (Editing by David Goodman)