Saudi Non-Oil Economy Expansions Slows to Record, PMI Shows

  • Slower expansion in new business as oil price slump bites
  • Egypt PMI shows contraction for fourth month in a row

A measure of growth in Saudi Arabia’s non-oil economy fell to a record low as cheap crude weighs on the world’s largest oil exporter.

The Emirates NBD Purchasing Managers’ Index for Saudi Arabia dropped to 53.9 in January, the lowest in the six-and-a-half year history of the survey, driven by slower expansion in new business. The United Arab Emirates PMI also showed a loss in growth momentum, slipping to 52.7 in January, a 46-month low. A reading above 50 still indicates expansion.

Egypt’s PMI contracted for a fourth month, to 48 from 48.2 in December.

As the price of crude has dropped from above $100 a barrel to below $30 in January, Saudi officials have cut spending, reduced subsidies and called for a wave of privatizations in unprecedented efforts to wean the kingdom off oil.

“The slowdown in the non-oil sectors is in line with our expectations as the economy adjusts to lower oil prices and fiscal policy is adjusted accordingly,” Khatija Haque, head of Middle East and North Africa research at Emirates NBD, said in the report. Global financial market volatility “and increased concerns about Chinese and global growth are likely to have weighed on sentiment,” she said.

Saudi officials have repeatedly said the economy is strong enough to weather the drop in oil prices. While the slump has sapped the kingdom’s reserves, they are still among the highest in the world.

The PMI, which is seasonally adjusted, is based on data compiled from monthly replies to questionnaires sent to executives in 400 companies in manufacturing, services, construction and other non-oil sectors.

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