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UAE current account surplus quadruples

The United Arab Emirates’ current account surplus quadrupled to 112.7 billion dirhams ($30.7 billion) in 2011 as both crude and non-oil exports soared, the central bank’s annual report showed on Thursday.

The surplus surged to 8.5 percent of gross domestic product last year from 2.4 percent, or 26.6 billion dirhams, in 2010, according to a Reuters calculation.

The 2011 calculation is based on a GDP estimate by the International Monetary Fund since the UAE’s statistics office has yet to release GDP data for last year. The Opec member’s 2010 balance of payments data has been revised.

Last year’s outcome is smaller than the IMF estimate for a surplus of 9.2 percent of GDP, released following regular consultations with the country in February and March.

The value of UAE hydrocarbon exports surged nearly 50 percent to 409.9 billion dirhams last year ($111 billion), helped by robust oil prices and higher output as a part of the Opec drive to help cover shortfalls due to a civil war in Libya.

Crude accounted for 81 percent of hydrocarbon exports of the UAE, one of the world’s top five oil exporters, with the rest almost evenly divided between gas and petroleum products. A Reuters poll in March showed analysts expecting the UAE’s hydrocarbon export revenue of $110 billion in 2012.

Non-oil exports jumped 22 percent to 228.0 billion dirhams, while re-exports rose 23 percent to 396.5 billion, the data showed. Imports to the $360 billion economy, the second largest in the Arab world, were also up 23 percent last year, at 742.4 billion dirhams.

The net balance on the UAE capital and financial account turned negative in 2011, reaching 60.4 billion dirhams, which indicates a net outflow of capital from the Gulf country, the central bank said.

“This was due mainly to a net outflow of capital by the public sector, in the amount of 95.0 billion dirhams, while the net inflow of private capital was in the amount of 34.6 billion in 2011,” it said.

Direct investment soared 40 percent to 28.2 billion dirhams in 2011, the highest level since 50.4 billion in 2008, when the global crisis pierced Dubai’s property bubble.

Remittances sent home by foreigners working in the UAE rose to 41.2 billion dirhams last year from 38.8 billion in 2010, the report showed.

The UAE, which has one of the highest incomes per capita globally, served as a safe haven for last year for foreign capital seeking a refuge from the wave of social unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

The central bank’s foreign currency assets increased to 169.4 billion dirhams in 2011 from 153.4 billion in the previous year. Its investments abroad into highly rated securities, government bonds and treasury bills rose to 72.3 billion dirhams from 68.4 billion in 2010, the report said.

The central bank did not give further details on the nature of its investments. It has traditionally kept the majority of its reserves in dollar-denominated assets due to its currency peg to the US dollar.

The UAE’s economic growth is forecast to ease to 3.1 percent this year, a Reuters poll showed in March, from the IMF estimated 4.9 percent in 2011, partly due to a global slowdown.


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