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Australian economy grows 0.6 pct in June quarter

AUSTRALIA'S economy gathered pace in the first half of this calendar year, firming expectations that the nation will remain among the few developed countries to avoid recession, according to figures released today.

The economy expanded 0.6 percent in the three months through June from the preceding quarter, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said. The market had expected only 0.2 percent growth.

Growth for the year through June was also 0.6 percent.

Treasurer Wayne Swan said Australia's economy had grown faster than that of any other advanced country in the past year.

"This is a remarkable result given how fragile the global economy is," Swan told reporters.

The growth reflected strong consumer spending due to billions of dollars in government handouts since late 2008, he said, pointing to Treasury estimates that without the stimulus packages, the economy would have shrunk 0.3 percent in the June quarter and by 1.3 percent in the year through June.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd warned that the international downturn would continue to have an impact on Australia.

"The global economy is not out of the woods yet by a long stretch and this economy, Australia's, is an integral part of the global economy," Rudd said.

Australia's economy defied expectations of a recession - defined as consecutive quarters of contraction - by eking out growth of 0.4 percent in the first three months of 2009.

The sluggish economy had shrunk by 0.6 percent in the last quarter of 2008 and had been expected to further weaken. The ABS today revised down its earlier figure of 0.5 percent for that December.

Australia's central bank left its benchmark interest rate steady at a 49-year low of 3 percent yesterday, saying the Australian economy was doing better than expected as the global economy resumed growing.

Also yesterday, the ABS released data showing Australia's trade deficit with the rest of the world had deepened to 13.35 billion Australian dollars (US$11.24 billion) during the three months through June.

The deficit was only AU$6.35 billion in the previous three months.

The ABS said the blowout in the latest quarter, which was due largely to lower world prices for Australian iron ore, would shave 0.2 percentage points from economic growth for the three months.


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