| SYDNEY, March 1
SYDNEY, March 1 Australia's economy rebounded
sharply last quarter as commodity exports boomed while consumers
and the government lifted spending, extending the resource rich
nation's 25-year streak of uninterrupted expansion.
The local dollar rose a fifth of a U.S. cent after
the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported gross domestic
product (GDP) climbed 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter.
That handily topped forecasts of 0.7 percent and came as a
huge relief after the third quarter's shock 0.5 percent decline.
It also marked 102 quarters without recession, just one quarter
short of the all-time record held by the Netherlands.
"So the third quarter dip was only a pothole after all and
not the end of the world," said Michael Blythe, chief economist
at CBA. "There's not a lot to complain about in these numbers,
with a bounce in consumer spending the big surprise."
The recovery saved the political blushes of the conservative
government of Malcolm Turnbull, which is riding low in the polls
and might have come unglued at news of an actual recession.
Growth for the year also surprised at 2.4 percent, ahead of
most of Australia's rich world peers.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is counting on growth to
pick up to around 3 percent this year and next, thanks in part
to surging exports of liquefied natural gas.
Record-low interest rates of 1.5 percent are supporting
consumer spending and home building, but the RBA is wary of
easing further for fear of stoking already-hot house prices.
Figures from property consultant CoreLogic out on Wednesday
showed prices in the major cities surged in February, taking the
annual pace of gains to its highest since mid-2010.
Yet neither is there much pressure for a rise in rates given
measures of inflation are near historic lows and wages are
growing at a pace last seen in the recession of 1991.
(Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)