The Saudi British Bank (SABB) has published the results of the headline SABB HSBC Saudi Arabia Purchasing Managers\' Index(tm) (PMI(tm)) for December 2011 - a monthly report issued by the bank and HSBC. It reflects the economic performance of Saudi Arabian nonoil producing private sector companies and establishments through the monitoring of a number of variables, including output, new orders, exports, input prices, output prices, quantity of purchases, stocks and employment. The PMI slipped slightly to 57.7 at the end of the fourth quarter, from 58.1 in November, according to a press released received here on Tuesday. The fall in the index signaled a weaker improvement in business conditions across Saudi Arabia\'s nonoil private sector. Moreover, the headline index remained below its long-run average (59.9). Behind the weaker PMI reading were slower expansions in its two largest components — output and total new work. Employment and input stocks, two of its other components, rose at slightly faster rates. Incoming new work to the Saudi Arabian nonoil private sector continued to rise during the latest survey period, bolstered by a sharper expansion in new export business. However, the overall rate of growth of total new business moderated since November. This was reflected by a slower increase in activity. Where new business and output rose in December, panel members commented on strong economic conditions, good demand, competitive selling prices and favorable exchange rates. Large firms saw the most pronounced increase in new work. Further growth of new orders, alongside expectations of improved demand, led companies to build input stocks and take on additional staff in December. Both buying activity and input holdings rose at sharper rates, although the rise in input stocks remained weak in relation to its historic trend. Employment rose at the fastest pace since August. Large firms recruited new personnel at a faster rate than SMEs. Respondents noted faster input deliveries in December. However, these improvements in vendor performance did not prevent further backlog accumulation in the nonoil private sector. Outstanding business rose for the third month running and at a sharper pace. Panelists attributed more work-in-hand to new order gains. Price pressures cooled in December, with both purchase prices and staff costs rising at weaker rates, as well as charge inflation easing to near-stagnation.