Australia avoids recession as GDP grows 1.1%

Australia’s economy has rebounded, recording 1.1% growth in the December 2016 quarter.

The result reverses the shock negative result in the September quarter and means Australia has avoided a recession, as was widely projected by market economists.

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday show Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) has now grown 2.4% through the year, below the long-term average of about 2.75%.

Despite the high 1.1% seasonally adjusted growth figure, trend growth in the quarter was 0.3% and the trend annual growth was just 1.9%.

The treasurer, Scott Morrison, said the result was achieved due to strong household consumption, but warned that “weak wages growth” was still weighing the economy and budget revenue down.

Australia has now recorded 101 quarters between the June 1991 and the 2016 December quarter without two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth.

Australia continues to close in on the Netherlands’ record of 103 quarters without a recession, which Deloitte Access Economics has predicted it will surpass this year.

The ABS found that household final consumption expenditure contributed 0.5% to GDP growth and net exports a further 0.2%.

Public and private capital formation contributed 0.3% this quarter after both detracted from GDP growth last quarter.

The terms of trade grew by 9.1% in the December quarter due to strong price rises in coal and iron ore. The terms of trade are now 15.6% higher than the December quarter of 2015.

In the September quarter Australia’s gross domestic product contracted by 0.5%, the first negative quarter in five years.

Responding to the improved results, treasurer Scott Morrison lauded the fact Australia is growing faster than every G7 economy and the OECD average.

“[The result] confirms the successful change that is taking place in our economy as we move from the largest resources investment boom in our history to broader-based growth,” he said.

Morrison noted it was the “first time … for a while” that final-state demand for all states and territories had grown in the December quarter.

The treasurer said the principle driver for growth was “a solid rebound in household consumption” which occurred “despite subdued wages growth”.

“Of concern in these accounts is that compensation of employees in the quarter declined by 0.5%. It was up 1.5% in the year.”

Morrison said that the combination of better prices and higher trade volumes had “a significant impact on company profits, especially in the resource sector”.

“However, I caution it would be wrong … to assume that those gains have been experienced evenly across all businesses in the economy.”

The chief Australian economist for Capital Economics, Paul Dales, warned that despite the result “economic growth will probably still disappoint this year”.

“In the second half of last year the economy grew by just 0.6% and we know that the collapse in mining investment has further to go,” he said.

Dales warned that recent falls in building approval meant dwelling investment may soon fall and record low wage growth would lower household spending.

“In other words, the boost to national income from higher commodity prices will mostly boost profits rather than activity.”

The author: Michel DEURINCK

Michel Deurinck, born in Brussels in 1950, started his career in the Belgian civil service, dedicating over 30 years to public service. Upon retirement, he pursued his passion for journalism. Transitioning into this new field, he quickly gained recognition for his insightful reporting on politics and culture. Deurinck's balanced and thoughtful approach to journalism has made him a respected figure in Belgian media.

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