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June 2, 2010    

Australia’s economy expands for fifth consecutive quarter

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by Kay Murchie

Australia’s economy, which has so far avoided recession, saw growth of 0.5% in the first three months of the year - albeit slower than the previous quarter.

In the meantime, growth for the final quarter of last year was revised upwards to 1.1% from 0.9%, resulting in annual growth of 2.7% for the year to the end of March, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Treasurer Wayne Swan described the figures “another very solid outcome”.

The figures come just a day after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) elected to leave interest rates on hold at 4.5% after a series of aggressive rate hikes since October.

While the decision was widely expected, economists say the central bank will only leave rates on hold for the short-term.

Australia was the first economy to raise rates from a 50-year low as the economic downturn eased. Other major economies opted for lower interest rates to boost their economies.

The country is one of the few developed economies not to have fallen into recession like its counterparts throughout the world as it has benefited from an increase in commodity prices, while exports have received a boost due to demand from China for its iron ore and other raw materials.

However, Australia has also benefited from a significant economic stimulus package - some of which has now been withdrawn.

Mr Swan commented: “We’ve had a far shallower downturn than major advanced economies and we’re recovering from a position of strength.

“Unlike many other economies we are not wading through the rubble of capital destruction, small-business closures and prolonged and high unemployment as we set about building for the future,” he added.

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