Saudi Quarterly Non-Oil Business Optimism Index Rises, NCB Says

Saudi Arabia’s Business Optimism Index for the non-hydrocarbon sector rose five points this quarter on an improved outlook for corporate orders and profit, National Commercial Bank and Dun & Bradstreet Corp. said.

The index rose to 54 points for the fourth quarter from 49 in the third, the companies said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The construction sector index rose to 84 this quarter from 60 in the previous quarter on expectation of more projects and a “boost in the economy,” they said.

The kingdom, the Arab world’s biggest economy, is spending about $500 billion on new roads, airports and social welfare, and has made job creation for its citizens a priority. The government on Nov. 4 started enforcing measures against undocumented foreign workers, leading to thousands of arrests and deportations across the country.

Saudi Arabia’s economic growth slowed in the second quarter to 2.7 percent, compared with 5.5 percent during the same quarter last year, according to official data. Output is forecast to slow this year to 4.2 percent from 5.1 percent last year, according to a Bloomberg survey of 20 analysts.

More than half of the businesspeople and executives surveyed for the index think the new labor laws will have a “negative impact” on their companies, according to the report. The outlook for hiring in the non-hydrocarbon sector for this quarter was 47, with 50 percent of respondents saying they will hire employees, the companies said.

The reading of the hydrocarbon industry was 30 this quarter, down from 39 in the previous quarter, the companies said, attributing the slide to expectations that revenue and profitability will slip.