Russia's economic slump eased in the fourth quarter as oil, gas and metals exporters benefited from higher prices after gross domestic product slumped by a record in the first half of the year, Bloomberg said on Thursday.

Output of the world's biggest energy exporter shrank an annual 3.8 per cent in the last three months of 2009 after contracting a revised 7.7 per cent in the third quarter and a revised 10.8 per cent in the second, the Federal Statistics Service said today. GDP fell by 7.9 per cent in 2009, the biggest contraction since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

A surge in oil prices bolstered state finances as the price of Urals crude more than doubled in the quarter from a low of $32.34 a year earlier. Leaner inventories, improved global sales and higher raw materials prices prompted companies including iron ore producer OAO Metalloinvest to boost output. The momentum may stall as rising joblessness and low demand for credit damp growth this year.

'We have seen a consistent recovery on the export side, and now I think we'll be seeing the consumer coming in,' said Clemens Grafe, chief economist at UBS AG in Moscow. 'The big question mark will be on the investment side. Traditionally, investment has been very much driven by the resource sector and at the moment there are a lot of question marks' among energy, coal and steel producers as a global restocking cycle subsides.

Net exports, or exports minus imports, grew 61 per cent in the fourth quarter after advancing 108 per cent in the previous three months, statistics service data show. Household spending slid 9.4 per cent in the fourth quarter.