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Fri 12 Apr 2019 12:56 AM

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Saudi private sector growth hits 15-month high

New survey shows Saudi Arabian private sector's new order growth accelerates to fastest since April 2015

Saudi private sector growth hits 15-month high
Surveyed firms in Saudi Arabia reported that the upturn largely reflected stronger market conditions, with greater sales efforts, improving product offerings and competitive pricing also helping to attract customers.

Growth in Saudi Arabia's non-oil private sector rose to its highest mark last month since December 2017, according to the Emirates NBD Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI).

The monthly survey of business conditions in the Saudi Arabian private sector showed that new order growth accelerates to fastest since April 2015.

However it also revealed that employment edged lower amid lack of capacity pressures in March.

Khatija Haque, head of MENA Research at Emirates NBD, said:
“The average PMI reading for Q1 2019 was 56.5, indicating the strongest quarterly expansion in the non-oil private sector since Q4 2017.

"However, the rebound in new orders and business output in recent months has not fed through to job growth, with private sector employment declining for only the third time in the series history last month.

"There also appears to be very little pricing power for firms, with selling prices declining (albeit only marginally) for the fifth month in a row.”

Underpinned by stronger increases in new orders and output across the non-oil private sector, the headline seasonally adjusted PMI climbed to 56.8 in March, from February’s 56.6. The latest reading was the highest since December 2017 and indicated one of the strongest growth performances over the past three-and-a-half years.

Surveyed firms reported that the upturn largely reflected stronger market conditions, with greater sales efforts, improving product offerings and competitive pricing also helping to attract customers.

New export orders rose for the first time in three months but only marginally, indicating that the main impetus continued to come from domestic sources.

The output of goods and services across the non-oil private sector likewise increased at a faster rate in March. Growth in output was at a seven-month high, though still below the historical series average (since 2009). Higher business activity in turn saw companies raise their buying levels and boost stocks of purchases.

Despite the sustained recovery in demand, there remained only mild pressure on business capacity. The level of backlogs of work barely rose during March, posting the smallest monthly increase since October last year.

As such, data showed a reduced appetite for new hires, with non-oil private sector employment falling slightly to end a near five-year sequence of workforce growth.

With firms looking to boost sales through competitive pricing, March saw a slight decrease in average prices charged for goods and services – the fifth in as many months.

The survey also showed that confidence towards future output remained strongly positive, despite the degree of optimism easing further from January’s recent peak.