Turkmen Jan-Sept GDP rises 11.1 pct yr/yr - president

By Marat Gurt

ASHGABAT, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Turkmenistan's economy expanded by 11.1 percent in the first nine months of 2012, slowing from 14.6 percent in the same period a year ago, President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Berdymukhamedov, who wields virtually unlimited powers in the reclusive Central Asian nation of 5.5 million, is the main source of macroeconomic statistics.

Turkmenistan's economic growth hinges on the development and exports of its natural gas riches. The Muslim desert nation holds the world's fourth-largest natural gas reserves, trailing only Russia, Iran and Qatar.

The president, a professional dentist widely titled "Arkadag" (The Patron), gave no reason for the relative slowdown in GDP growth in January-September.

"The rate of the national currency is kept stable. Inflation is kept within a targeted range," television showed the autocratic ruler saying on Thursday. He did not elaborate.

Quoting official data, local media reported that Turkmenistan's gas output grew by 8.5 percent in the first nine months of this year compared to the same period of 2011. They gave no absolute figures.

BP data shows the country consumed less than half of the 59.5 billion cubic metres it produced last year.

A monitoring mission of the International Monetary Fund, which visited Turkmenistan in July, said in its report that it projected real GDP growth to remain strong in 2012-13, at about 8 percent ().

Increasing gas exports to China and a surge in public investment enabled a strong GDP growth of 14.7 percent in 2011, the Fund said.

"Greater hydrocarbon exports would strengthen the external position further," the IMF said.

"Inflation is expected to remain in single digits. Direct economic spillovers to Turkmenistan from the euro area crisis are likely to remain limited."

Headline inflation increased from 4.8 percent in 2010 to 5.6 percent in 2011, but moderated to 3 percent in June 2012, the Fund said.

Turkmenistan's State Statistics Committee said last year's inflation measured 5.3 percent. It said that in the first half of 2012 it had actually registered deflation of 1.8 percent. It has not published any fresh consumer price data.

(Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; editing by Patrick Graham)