SYDNEY, July 17 (Reuters) - Australia has been building more new homes, offices and shopping centres than previously thought, according to revised data from the government, a promising sign that a key area of the economy is on the path to recovery.
The new figures would be welcomed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) which has been counting on a revival in home building to help offset the drag from a cooling mining boom.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday reported it had revised figures on home building work, dwelling starts and non-residential building going back for some years. The revisions were overwhelmingly higher.
For the fourth quarter of 2012, for instance, the total value of building work commenced was revised up by A$1.2 billion ($1.1 billion) in inflation-adjusted dollars. That alone was equal to 0.3 percentage points of gross domestic product (GDP) in the quarter.
As a result it was possible that the level of GDP could also be revised higher, along with the pace of growth.
The number of new homes started in the fourth quarter of last year was revised up by 2,669, or 7 percent. There were now 151,370 new homes started in 2012, compared to a previously reported 147,475.
“The revisions are significant,” said Michael Workman, a senior economist at Commonwealth Bank. “This is not yet the fully blown housing recovery of the past, but it’s getting there.”
He added, that after the revisions, it looked more likely that new home starts would reach an optimistic target of 160,000 this year.
“That would add around half a percentage point to economic growth, and so help the transition away from mining-driven activity,” said Workman.
A desire to support housing was one reason the RBA cut interest rates to a record low of 2.75 percent in May. Many analysts think it will cut again in the next few months, and perhaps as early as its next policy meeting on Aug. 6. (Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Kim Coghill)