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Wed 25 Apr 2007 09:48 PM

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Saudi economy could grow by 4%

This year's growth could be higher than expected due to a possible rise in oil output.

Saudi Arabia's economy, the largest in the Arab world, may grow as much as 4% this year, more than previously expected, on a possible rise in oil output, Samba Financial Group said on Wednesday.

Samba Chief Economist Brad Bourland told Reuters he may revise his expectation for average Saudi oil production this year to 8.7 million barrels per day (bpd) from 8.6 million bpd.

Borland said the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries may raise its oil production cap on rising oil prices, allowing Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, to pump more.

Saudi officials said earlier this month the kingdom was producing 8.5 million bpd, he said.

"OPEC could put more oil in the market in the second half of the year which means real GDP numbers could go up," Bourland said. "We could revise GDP figures up by between 1 and 1.5 percentage points."

The bank had forecast Saudi Arabia's gross domestic product growth at 2.43% in February.

OPEC had agreed oil output cuts totalling 1.7 million barrels per day last year to shore up prices.

Samba could also revise upward its forecast for U.S. light crude by as much as $4 from $58.50 a barrel on strong growth in China, Bourland said.

"Any adjustment in our forecasts is likely to be upward," Bourland said.

"Growth in China is strong and U.S. growth doesn't look bad."

Growth of 4% would still be the slowest in five years. Saudi Arabia's nominal GDP has roughly doubled in size since 2001 on a near tripling in oil prices in the five years to July 2006.

Oil accounts for about 75% of government revenue.

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