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New Zealand economic growth accelerated in Q3

[WELLINGTON] New Zealand's economy grew at a faster pace in the third quarter, suggesting its slowdown is over and the central bank may not have to keep cutting interest rates.

Gross domestic product rose 2.3 per cent from a year earlier, picking up from 2.1 per cent in the second quarter and matching economists' forecasts

GDP climbed 0.7 per cent from the previous three-month period, Statistics New Zealand said on Thursday in Wellington, beating economists' 0.5 per cent estimate

However, second-quarter growth was revised to 0.1 per cent from 0.5 per cent after the statistics agency updated the series

Bets on further rate cuts have been falling as improving business confidence and rising house prices add to signs the economy is at or near a turning point.

The Reserve Bank slashed its official cash rate to a record-low 1 per cent this year and the government last week announced a NZ$12 billion (S$10.8 billion) infrastructure investment program that may further boost activity in 2020, an election year.

"The slightly stronger GDP result, along with the recent pick-up in business confidence, will likely come as some relief to the RBNZ and result in the RBNZ's OCR risk assessment becoming more balanced," said Jane Turner, senior economist at ASB Bank in Auckland. "Nonetheless, we continue to expect the RBNZ will cut the OCR once more over 2020, in large part due to tightening credit conditions creating headwinds to a recovery in GDP growth over 2020."

The kiwi dollar spiked after the report before retracing to be little changed. It bought 65.83 US cents at 11.15am in Wellington. The chance of a rate cut at the next RBNZ review in February is less than 8 per cent, according to swaps data.

Most economists expect the central bank will cut interest rates once more in 2020 to 0.75 per cent, according to a Bloomberg survey.

Last month, the RBNZ unexpectedly left rates unchanged, saying there are signs the domestic economy will stop slowing and that inflation will pick up. Some analysts reduced their projections for multiple rate cuts after the central bank's new bank capital requirements, announced Dec 5, weren't as onerous as feared.

Revisions to the data history show a stronger economy in 2018, with annual growth of 3.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2018 compared with 2.4 per cent previously reported.

The new data shows the economy expanded just 0.5 per cent in the first half of 2019. Third-quarter growth was faster than the 0.3 per cent the RBNZ projected in its November monetary policy statement. Most economists raised their forecasts in recent weeks as reports showed a stronger lift in retail sales and manufacturing output.

Output from farming, forestry and fishing increased, offset by a drop in mining production

Manufacturing and construction expanded after contracting in the second quarter

Investment was unchanged from the second quarter, with purchases of plant and machinery falling for the first time in three years; residential building also slowed

Household spending rose at a faster pace, led by purchases of electronic goods

GDP per capita grew 0.4 per cent from the second quarter, when it fell 0.3 per cent.