* Regional turmoil has very little impact on Saudi economy
* Economy reasonably insulated - c.bank governor
(Adds quotes, details, background)
By Asma Alsharif
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, March 20 Saudi Arabia's
economy is reasonably insulated from the regional turmoil and
the central bank has seen no abnormal capital outflows, its
governor Muhammad al-Jasser said on Sunday.
Revolts have been sweeping through the Arab world since
December, shaking the world's top oil exporter's neighbours
Bahrain, Oman and Yemen, while raising debt insurance costs and
pressuring markets across the Gulf.
When asked about the impact of the regional turmoil on the
economy and capital flows, the Saudi central bank governor told
reporters: "I think very little because simply, economically you
have to look at what you are exporting and importing."
"I have checked all the numbers and there has not been any
noticeable outflows or abnormal outflows in Saudi Arabia during
the past few weeks so it has been normal business," he said on
the sidelines of a financial conference.
With investors worried by the regional unrest, Saudi
one-year currency forwards held near their highest levels since
January 2009 over past weeks, pointing to a weakening in the
riyal, which is pegged to the dollar, over the next 12 months.
Saudi five-year credit default swaps have eased from
February highs, but still remain some 74 percent above levels
seen in January before protests began in Egypt.
Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally and top Arab economy, has escaped
the mass uprisings but some dissent has built up in the kingdom,
whose economy expanded by 3.8 percent in real terms last year.
On Sunday, dozens of Saudi men gathered outside the interior
ministry in Riyadh undeterred by a heavy police presence, to
demand the release of jailed relatives. [ID:nLDE72J042]
However, Saudi stocks gained as much as 5.7 percent on
Sunday, boosted by new social spending worth $93 billion,
offered by King Abdullah to ease tensions in the desert kingdom,
where more than 10 percent of Saudis are without a job.
The overall social package amounts to nearly 30 percent of
economic output when combined with an estimated $37 billion
worth of handouts announced last month.
Analysts polled by Reuters before the latest spending plan
was released had expected the Saudi economy to expand by 4.5
percent this year. GULFPOLL1
(Writing by Martin Dokoupil; Editing by Alexander Smith)