Australia avoids recession with growth in December quarter

FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, file photo, people walk past the Reserve Bank of Australia in Sydney, Australia. Australia’s economy expanded at a faster-than-expected 1.1 percent annual pace in the final three months of last year, as resurgent coal and iron ore prices helped the country avoid recession according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia's economy expanded at a faster-than-expected 1.1 percent annual pace in the final three months of last year, as resurgent coal and iron ore prices helped the country avoid recession.

Had the economy shrunk for the December quarter in Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released on Wednesday, Australia would be in its first technical recession since 1991.

The growth followed a shock 0.5 percent decline for the September quarter.

Growth for the calendar year was 2.4 percent, up from 1.8 percent for the year through September.

Mining and agriculture saw relatively strong growth in the latest quarter. Iron ore and coal are Australia's biggest exports and reduced demand from China has cooled a mining boom and hurt the Australian economy.

Treasurer Scott Morrison welcomed a 2 percent increase in business investment in December —the first rise after a dozen quarters of decline.

"Our growth continues to be above the OECD average and 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," Morrison told reporters, referring to the 35-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The September quarter was Australia's first quarter of economic contraction since early 2011.

Treasury Department secretary John Fraser told a Senate committee on Wednesday the fundamentals of the economy were "sound, but finely balanced."

The September quarter showed the economy remains sensitive to shocks, Fraser said.

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