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Australia's economy rebounds sharply in third quarter, beats forecast – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Swati Pandey

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s economy handily beat forecasts last quarter, rebounding from a coronavirus-induced contraction helped by massive stimulus, while growth is expected to be even stronger this quarter with near-zero new COVID cases.

The economy expanded by 3.3% in the three months to September, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed on Wednesday. Economists in a Reuters poll had forecast a 2.6% rise after a 7% contraction in second quarter.

Despite the brisk pace of quarterly growth, GDP still contracted 3.8% on an annual basis, suggesting the recession-stricken economy is not out of the woods yet and that policy support will be needed for some time.

The rebound was led by household spending, which rose 7.9%, the data showed.

But annual output is not expected to reach pre-COVID levels until late next year, provided Australia is able to keep the virus at bay.

The country, which has recorded nearly 28,000 coronavirus cases, has been lauded globally for successfully reopening its economy in late-May after curbing the pandemic.

That, together with A$300 billion ($221.55 billion)in fiscal stimulus and record low cash rate of 0.1%, have boosted jobs, credit demand, home prices and household consumption.

In a sign of solid consumer demand, Australia’s top lender Commonwealth Bank saw nationwide spending on its credit and debit cards jump 12% for the week-ending Nov.23 from last year.

ANZ Banking Group said spending on its cards surged 28% for the week to end-November, helped by Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

“Q4 growth is currently shaping up to be solid,” ANZ economists wrote in a note.

“The strong rebound in activity in Melbourne, the broader bounce in consumer and business confidence, along with upside surprises from the high frequency data are currently suggesting that December quarter growth will be pretty solid.”

Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, reopened from its marathon lockdown in late October.

(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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Canadian first quarter industry capacity use rises to 81.7%

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Canadian industries ran at 81.7% of capacity in the first quarter of 2021, up from a upwardly revised 79.7% in the fourth quarter of 2020, Statistic Canada said on Friday.

The increase in the first quarter was driven by gains in construction and in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction.

Following are the rates in percent:

Q1 2021 Q4 2020 (rev) Q4 2020 (prev)

Cap. utilization 81.7 79.7 79.2

Manufacturing 76.5 76.7 76.2

NOTE: Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast a first quarter rate of 80.6% capacity utilization.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer, editing by Dale Smith (steve.scherer@tr.com))

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UK, Canada agreed to redouble efforts for trade deal

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed on Friday to redouble their efforts to secure a trade agreement as soon as possible to unlock such a deal’s “huge opportunities”.

“The leaders agreed a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the UK and Canada would unlock huge opportunities for both of our countries. They agreed to redouble their efforts to secure an FTA (free trade agreement) as soon as possible,” Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement.

“They discussed a number of foreign policy issues including China and Iran.”

 

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, writing by Elizabeth Piper)

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Greater pricing power to help Canadian exporters withstand loonie surge

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A stronger Canadian dollar is usually seen hurting exporters, but the nature of the global economic recovery could help firms pass on their higher costs from the currency to customers, leaving exporters in less pain than in previous cycles.

Exports account for nearly one-third of Canada‘s gross domestic product, compared with about 12% for the United States, making Canada‘s economy more sensitive to a stronger currency, with the loonie trading near a six-year high versus the U.S. dollar.

But exporters could remain more competitive than usual after the COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in the amount of money available for consumer spending, bolstered by government support measures. A global shortage of goods, due to supply chain disruptions, could also help.

“The appreciation that we are seeing in the currency now is less of an issue than in most other appreciations that we have seen,” said Peter Hall, chief economist at Export Development Canada.

“There are not enough goods and services available to satisfy the demands of the marketplace at the moment. And in that case there is probably pricing power,” Hall added.

The prices that Canadian manufacturers charge for their products increased at a record pace in May, while activity climbed for the 11th straight month, data from IHS Markit Canada showed last week.

Canada‘s major exports include autos, oil and other commodities. With commodity prices soaring, the Canadian dollar has been the top performing Group of 10 currency this year, advancing 5% against the U.S. dollar.

It hit a six-year high near 1.20 per greenback, or 83.33 cents U.S., last week. The Bank of Canada has said that further appreciation could weigh on the economy.

The loonie traded close to parity for much of the 2007 to 2013 period, contributing to a slow recovery for Canada‘s exports from the global financial crisis.

“What (business) was left behind after that period of an overvalued currency was relatively strong,” said Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.

That reduces the risk of a “hollowing out” of the sector during the current episode of currency strength, Porter said.

At Magna International Inc, a major Canadian producer of auto parts, global diversification of its operations helps protect against currency strength.

“Movements in the Canadian dollar have become relatively less impactful to our overall business,” a company spokesperson said in an email to Reuters. “Increased global economic activity, and in particular global light vehicle production is a more important factor to our outlook.”

For now, the greater concern for manufacturers could be the reduced and more costly supply of inputs, such as semiconductor microchips, as well as the lengthy closure of the U.S. border.

“The challenge we have faced as an industry is the movement of personnel,” said Brian Kingston, chief executive of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA). “If a piece of equipment on the line goes down, you may need to bring in someone from Michigan.”

For some industries, those logistical issues and the stronger Canadian dollar could be trivial compared to the jump in commodity prices.

“Under normal circumstances, a rising Canadian dollar would hinder the competitiveness of Canadian exports, but the way ag (agriculture) markets have risen overall, it’s a moot point,” said Lorne Boundy, merchandiser for Winnipeg-based crop handler Paterson Grain.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal, Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Shreyasee Raj in Bengaluru; Editing by Denny Thomas and Jonathan Oatis and Kirsten Donovan)

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