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Australia and New Zealand Banking Group : ANZ Says More Rate Cuts Won't Help Economy

04/29/2013 | 10:55pm US/Eastern
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MELBOURNE--Further rate cuts from Australia's central bank won't do much to stimulate growth in the resource-rich economy, the head of the country's third-largest lender by market value said Tuesday.

Mike Smith, the Chief Executive of Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. (ANZ.AU) said there was "no doubt" a yearlong rate-cutting campaign has helped growth. But he added that a decisive outcome at September's federal election would do more to stimulate Australia's economy than further rate cuts, by encouraging businesses to invest.

"The big issue is one of confidence, of business confidence," Mr. Smith told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. "A decisive win would help. People, at the end of the day, like to know where they stand."

Australia was one of a handful of developed countries to avoid recession during the global financial crisis, shielded by booming demand for its resources exports from Asia. But weakening company earnings have left the ruling Labor party facing a 12 billion Australian dollar (US$12.24 billion) shortfall in revenue this year, which some economists forecast could result in a budget deficit of as much as A$25 billion.

The main opposition Liberal-National coalition, which recent voter polls have indicated will take power at a general election in September, has pledged spending cuts to help reduce the deficit.

Mr. Smith backed the need for a reduction in government spending but said it must be accompanied by measures such as tax cuts to help boost growth.

"I don't believe austerity on its own works," he said. "You've got to have austerity with measures that actually help stimulate."

The Reserve Bank of Australia left its official cash rate at a near-record-low 3% this month, saying it sees signs of expansion in the economy. Interest rates have been cut six times since late 2011 as the RBA has tried to stoke growth in parts of the economy such as retail and manufacturing that have been hit by weak consumer spending and a strong Australian dollar.

Some economists expect the RBA to cut its benchmark rate by another quarter of a percentage point in May in the face of rising unemployment and recent volatility in commodity prices.

Write to Caroline Henshaw at caroline.henshaw@wsj.com

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