Putin says economy moves from stabilization to development

President Vladimir Putin delivered an upbeat snapshot Thursday of Russia's finances in 2006, a year he touted as seeing the country move from a phase of stabilization to one of development.

Speaking at the beginning of his annual, nationally televised news conference, the Russian leader said last year was the time the nation began to break away from a dependence on high prices for its oil and gas exports.

"2006 was a year when we moved from a policy of stabilization and saving to a policy of development," he said.

Putin acknowledged that high oil prices had contributed to growth of 6.7 percent to 6.9 percent for the year, but asserted that consumer and investment demand had also played a role, the AP said.

He also rolled off a list of Russia's economic successes, saying the stock market broke the US$1 trillion (EUR 771 billion) mark while the hard currency reserves were the third largest in the world at US$303 billion (EUR 234 billion).

Private capital inflows had soared to US$41 billion of which US$31 billion (EUR 24 billion) was direct foreign investment. "volumes that we had not seen before," he said.

Inflation was kept in single digits - around 9 percent - for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union and the construction sector had soared by 15.7 percent, he said.

A swath of Russian initial public offerings dominated by state oil giant JSC Rosneft raising US$10.6 billion (EUR 8.2 billion) "was only the beginning," he noted.

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov