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Australia economy strengthens after weak start to year

WT24 Desk

SYDNEY – Australia’s economy has shrugged off a sluggish start to the year, boosted by government and consumer spending with the nation extending its record run of growth, official data showed Wednesday,AFP reports.

Economic growth for the second-quarter was 0.8 percent, after 0.3 percent in January-March, to take the annual rate of expansion to 1.8 percent, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.

“Today’s national accounts for the June quarter reveal solid and more balanced growth for our economy,” Treasurer Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra.  “(It confirms) the emerging national economic consensus of the better-days-ahead outlook that I referred to in this year’s budget.”

The stronger reading came after the economy marked a world-record 26 years without a recession, even as growth slowed at the beginning of the year with the impact of category four Cyclone Debbie on eastern Australia.

The Australian dollar slipped slightly below 80 US cents after the data release, with investors disappointed that the latest GDP reading was marginally softer than some analysts’ estimates.

The figures showed that household spending rose by 0.7 percent and government expenditure by 1.2 percent, while exports of goods and services increased by 2.7 percent for the period.

The Australian economy has charted a rocky path as it transitions away from an unprecedented mining boom, with the Reserve Bank of Australia cutting interest rates to a record-low of 1.50 percent.

The central bank on Tuesday kept rates on hold at 1.50 percent for the 13th-straight month, but signalled optimism about recent improvements in the economy.  They include a strengthening jobs market, business conditions and sales.

“Growth in the number of Australians with jobs has picked up over recent months and the unemployment rate has come down a bit,” RBA governor Philip Lowe said at a dinner speech in Brisbane late Tuesday.

“The investment outlook has also brightened. Inflation has troughed and it is likely to increase gradually over the next couple of years. These are positive developments.”

The RBA has been cautious about lifting rates despite the improvements, with concerns that high levels of household debt and strong property prices could make Australians vulnerable to rising borrowing costs.

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