Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s foreign reserves surpassed $500 billion for the first time in July, giving the biggest Arab economy scope to carry out its spending plans to promote growth and weather any potential drop in oil prices.

Total reserves assets increased to 1.90 trillion riyals from 1.86 trillion riyals in the previous month, according to data posted on the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency’s website on Sunday.

Foreign currency and deposits abroad rose 1.3 per cent to 493 million riyals, while investments in foreign securities climbed 1.9 per cent to 1.3 billion riyals.

“Half a trillion dollars in assets and very low levels of debt makes the kingdom a key global creditor,” said Simon Williams, chief economist for the Middle East at HSBC Holdings Plc. “Oil prices are high, they are running surpluses and those surpluses get recycled overseas.”

The kingdom, which depends on oil for 86 per cent of its revenue, announced increases in government spending in March as protests calling for more job opportunities and democracy engulfed the Middle East.

The package included $67 billion on housing and funds for the military and religious groups that backed the government’s ban on domestic protests, and followed a $36 billion handout announced on February 23.

Crude prices have so far averaged about $97 a barrel this year compared with about $80 last year. Oil rose 0.08 per cent on Friday to close at $85.37 a barrel in New York.