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Tue 20 Dec 2011 06:40 PM

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Saudi inflation rate rises to 5.2% on higher food prices

Housing costs also drive annual inflation rate, according to data from statistics dep't

Saudi inflation rate rises to 5.2% on higher food prices
Inflation in Saudi Arabia rose in November as food costs increased

Saudi Arabia's annual inflation rate rose 5.2 percent on an annual basis in November, mainly due to higher food and housing costs, data from the Central Department of Statistics showed on Tuesday.

Analysts expected consumer prices in the world's top oil exporter to gather momentum this year as the Gulf Arab country pledged to spend an IMF estimated $110bn, or 19 percent of its 2011 economic output, on a range of social measures.

The largest Arab economy is seen expanding by 6.2 percent in 2011 and 4.5 percent next year following a 4.2 percent growth in 2010, helped by robust crude prices and generous government spending.

Analysts polled by Reuters expected average inflation of 5.1 percent in 2011 and 5.0 percent in 2012.

Gabriel Sterne, senior economist at Exotix Investment Bank, said: "They have a fixed exchange rate which will dampen inflation going forward. On the other hand, they are spending a lot, and world commodities prices are rising. You will see a similar scenario next year as this year, around 5 percent."

"But we've had worrying signs in China. A Europe in recession is more or less given. If you get more worrying signs from China, with equity prices and house prices falling and the economy really slows, then you get commodities prices falling, and there could be trouble ahead for the Saudi economy."

Saudi inflation accelerated to 5.3 percent in 2010 from 5.1 percent in 2009, still below a record high of 9.9 percent in the oil-boom year of 2008 but above its long-term average of around 1 percent.

Former Central Bank Governor Muhammad al-Jasser told Reuters in October that interest rate settings were appropriate at the moment with no signs of inflation coming from monetary impetus.

He also said that inflation levels were not worrying and would continue to decline.

Saudi Arabia's central bank (SAMA) said in August it expects inflationary pressures in the biggest Arab economy to continue at a moderate pace in the third-quarter of this year.