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Business

Australia's economy takes off in first quarter

The Australian economy has beat analysts' expectations and delivered its best quarterly performance in 15 years. The growth seemed to reinforce a decision by the country's central bank to keep interest rates on hold.

Australia's mining-driven economy logged on-the-year growth of 0.9 percent in the first quarter of the year, its best result in a decade and a half, data from the statistics office showed Wednesday.

That took the country's annual rate of growth to 2.3 percent. Major drivers were exports, domestic spending and the construction sector, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

"This is a good, solid result," Australia's treasurer, Joe Hockey, said. "This is the strongest quarterly result in 15 years."

Q1 growth was up from 0.5 percent in the period from October to December last year and 0.3 percent in the quarter before that.

Mining gap

As the economy shifts away from a dependence on mining, historically one of the country's main sources of wealth, Australians have watched as other sectors, such as tourism, education and professional services, try and fill the gap.

But the value of these sectors still pales in comparison to the massive investments plowed into Australia's miners by primarily Chinese companies. That influx of cash helped Australia avoid recession for more than two decades.

The positive news about the stronger-than-expected Q1 growth lifted the Australian dollar, the Aussie, by one-third of a US cent. It was the second boost the currency has received in as many days after a decision by the country's central bank on Tuesday left interest rates unchanged at a record-low 2.0 percent.

cjc/hg (AFP, Reuters)

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