Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All-Share Index (TASI) has posted impressive returns YTD (up over 16%), but last week’s correction, coupled with a recent report issued by Riyadh-based Samba Bank–which warned that the recovery of oil prices to above $60/barrel and a forecasted 24% increase in government spending will not be adequate to offset a sharp slowdown in private sector activity–raises concern.

The Bank asserted that while public spending in both oil and non-oil sectors has been robust, private investment, in contrast, remained tepid, constrained by lingering tougher lending standards due at least in part to poor export prospects, especially in petrochemicals (polyethylene prices are still down roughly 50% from their mid-2008 highs) and refined products, the country’s main exports after oil and natural gas. It added that the country’s GDP would contract by 1.2% in 2009 (following 4.5% growth last year), but predicted that growth would climb to 4.4% in 2010.

Additional observations included the perceived “oversupply” in the commercial real estate market, such as the government’s pet King Abdullah Economic City north of Jeddah on the Red Sea, which the Bank projects will have trouble attracting additional-needed financing.

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