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Economic Growth Falls to 5-Year Low

January 12, 2005 | Reuters, MT

Non-oil economic growth slowed for the sixth month in a row to 3.9 percent in December, the lowest year-on-year rate since April 1999, Moscow Narodny Bank's GDP indicator showed Tuesday.

The indicator, which is derived from MNB's manufacturing and services purchasing managers indices but does not include the oil sector, showed that growth fell from 4.5 percent in November.

Fourth-quarter growth slowed to 4.5 percent -- the weakest since late 2002. That was down from 6.2 percent in the third quarter of 2004 and 8.6 percent in the final quarter of 2003.

Paul Timmons, chief economist at London-based MNB, a subsidiary of Russia's Central Bank, said a broad slowdown in the tradable goods sector and rising costs eroding firms' working capital had taken growth below long-term trend rates.

But he predicted a bounce back, and forecast full-year economic growth this year of 5.8 percent. "This trend is not viewed as being indicative of any inherent structural weakness in Russia's current economic performance," Timmons commented.

On Monday, MNB's manufacturing index showed a return to growth in December, after the previous month's index showed the sector shrinking for the first time since 1998.

Production of oil, the lynchpin of the overall economy, also declined in December.

Industry and Energy Ministry data published Tuesday showed output edged down for the third month in a row as seasonal factors and falling production at oil major Yukos put the brakes on the country's five-year-long oil boom.

Production slowed to 9.33 million barrels per day from 9.39 million bpd in November, 9.41 million in October and 9.42 million in September, which was a post-Soviet record.

Production at Yukos was down 3.5 percent month on month to 1.66 million bpd.


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