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     SYDNEY (MNI) - From Westpac-Melbourne Institute's Leading Index for March
published Wednesday.
                                                         March  February
Leading Index                                            97.77     97.99
6-Mo Annualized Deviation From Trend, percentage points  +0.69     +1.43
     FACTORS: The leading index fell in March reversing much of the gains from
February, thus pointing to slowing in above-trend growth momentum. However, the
drivers for the reversal were mainly domestic factors whereas in February the
increase was due to international factors. The domestic components contributing
to the slowdown included a slowing labor market, some weakness in housing and
rise in short-term interest rates.
     TAKEAWAY: The leading continues to point to above-trend growth which is in
line with the Reserve Bank of Australia's expectation but contrasts with
Westpac's own forecast for around trend growth. According to Westpac, RBA will
lower its growth forecast for 2018 to 3.0% from 3.25%.
     COMMENTS: Westpac chief economist Bill Evans continues to expect the RBA
will keep the cash rate on hold in 2018 and 2019.
--MNI Sydney Bureau; tel: +61 2-9716-5467; email:

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