Business investment boosts Australia's economy

Sydney (AFP) –


Australia's economy grew 0.6 percent in the third-quarter, as business investment lifted despite weak household spending, reflecting the divergence between the two segments, official data showed Wednesday.

The quarterly expansion took the annual rate of growth to a healthy 2.8 percent, slightly below expectations but broadly in line with the central bank's forecasts, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures showed.

"The solid 0.6 percent growth outcome in the September quarter national accounts has accelerated growth from 1.9 percent to 2.8 percent through the year," Treasurer Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

"This is above the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average and puts Australia back up towards the top of the pack for major advanced economies around the world."

The previous quarter's reading of 0.8 percent was revised up to 0.9 percent, extending the Australian economy's uninterrupted growth to 26 years without a recession.

The ABS's chief economist Bruce Hockman said the quarterly expansion was driven by increased activity in both private business investment and public infrastructure, which "underpinned broad growth across the industries".

Seventeen out of 20 industries recorded positive growth, led by the professional, scientific and technical services, healthcare and social assistance, and manufacturing sectors.

While wages increased over the three months, household consumption was weak at 0.1 percent, leading to a rise in the savings ratio for the first time in five quarters, Hockman added.

Australia has been exiting an unprecedented mining investment boom, with the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) cutting interest rates to a record-low of 1.50 percent since November 2011 to boost growth in non-resources industries.

But the transition has been rocky, with the central bank keeping rates on hold for one-and-a-half years amid concerns about tepid wages growth, high household debt and soft inflation figures.

"What happens next depends on whether business investment can continue to offset soft dwellings investment and consumption," Capital Economics' chief economist for Australia and New Zealand Paul Dales said in a note.

"Our weaker view on consumption largely explains why we doubt GDP growth next year will live up to the RBA's 3.0 percent forecast."