* Dubai, Abu Dhabi register among lowest trading volumes this year
* Emaar Properties slides, but other Emaar stocks advance
* Al Rajhi Bank down for a fourth straight session
* Insurers gain; Bupa Arabia firms after parent raises stake
* Egypt’s Ezz Steel climbs above April 2010 peak
By Davide Barbuscia
DUBAI, March 18 (Reuters) - Gulf stock markets eased on Sunday as gains in oil prices at the end of last week failed to spur activity, though Ezz Steel helped to lift Egypt’s index.
There was very little action in the United Arab Emirates, with both Dubai and Abu Dhabi registering among their lowest trading volumes this year as the indexes fell marginally.
Emaar Properties was the worst performer in Dubai, shedding 1.9 percent and closing near 20-month lows. The stock has been sold off by international accounts since last week, said one trader, depressed by the sluggish outlook for Dubai’s real estate market.
Two Emaar subsidiaries performed much better, however, with Emaar Development gaining 3.3 percent and Emaar Malls adding 2.8 percent.
Courier Aramex closed 2.1 percent up after a research note from FAB Securities last week said the company was expected to grow in value given the strong e-commerce activity across the region.
On Nasdaq Dubai, interior contractor Depa became the first stock on that exchange to switch its listing currency to UAE dirhams from U.S. dollars in an effort to attract more regional institutional and retail investors. The stock rose marginally as trading volumes edged higher but remained thin.
The Saudi market gained in early trade but closed 0.2 percent down. Al Rajhi Bank, which attracted heavy foreign fund inflows earlier this year, pulled back for a fourth day running, losing 1.1 percent.
There were wider gains across the insurance sector, with Bupa Arabia up 3.1 percent after parent Bupa said at the end of last week that it planned to increase its stake by 5 percentage points to 39.25 percent in a transaction worth 400 million riyals ($107 million).
SABB Takaful added 2.4 percent after the central bank announced that it would allow the insurer to accept new customers. The company been under a temporary suspension from taking on new business because of regulatory issues.
Egypt’s index was up 1.6 percent by the close after its heaviest trading this year. Ezz Steel, buoyed by signs of a strengthening economy and expectations for more interest rate cuts as inflation recedes, rose 6.3 percent to 27.20 Egyptian pounds, rising above technical resistance at the April 2010 peak of 26 pounds.
* The index shed 0.2 percent to 7,728 points.
* The index lost 0.1 percent to 3,193 points.
* The index fell 0.2 percent to 4,533 points.
* The index dropped 0.5 percent to 8,803 points.
* The inxed gained 1.6 percent to 17,271 points.
* The index edged down 0.04 to 6,758 points.
* The index went down 0.2 percent to 1,352 points.
* The index edged down 0.1 percent to 4,893 points. (Editing by Andrew Torchia Editing by David Goodman)