Australia's Economy Expands in 1Q

By James Glynn Features Dow Jones Newswires

Australia's gross domestic product expanded anemically in the first quarter of this year, adding to concerns about the outlook for a resource-rich economy that has navigated 25 years without a recession.

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GDP grew by 0.3% in the three months through March from the fourth quarter of 2016 and grew by 1.7% from a year ago, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed Wednesday.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had expected 0.3% growth on quarter and a 1.6% on-year increase, although some had forecast a negative reading. Australia's economy last shrank in the third quarter of 2016.

The government kept its fourth-quarter growth figure unchanged at 1.1%.

The weak result adds to pressure on the Reserve Bank of Australia to consider loosening monetary policy to rev up growth. Lowering interest rates would ease pressure on households that have taken on more debt in recent years, particularly to buy houses, and have recently shown signs of curbing spending.

Still, the central bank signaled optimism on Tuesday that growth will start to accelerate. It forecast a gradual pickup in GDP to a touch above 3% over the next two years.

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Anemic growth in the first quarter may partly reflect the impact of a tropical cyclone that left a trail of destruction in eastern Australia. The storm kept consumers at home for several days and restricted exports of key commodities such as steelmaking coal from mines in Queensland state due to flood-damaged rail lines.

Write to James Glynn at james.glynn@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 06, 2017 21:48 ET (01:48 GMT)