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SYDNEY (Reuters) - A slow-moving tropical low in the Indian Ocean could intensify into Australia's first cyclone of the 2016/17 season, forecasters said on Monday.
The near-stationary low was situated 550 km (340 miles) north northwest of Karratha, an oil, gas and iron ore mining hub along Australia's west coast, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
Weather data shows the low has rapidly intensified in the past 24 hours and is likely to develop further in coming days.
"It is expected to be slow moving before tracking to the east on Wednesday, remaining well north of the Western Australian mainland, the bureau said. "The risk for this system to reach tropical cyclone intensity increases to high on Tuesday and Wednesday."
Cyclones can affect Australian mining, farming and shipping and drive global price spikes in commodities from iron ore, coal and sugar.
The bureau said in October there was a 67 percent chance that more than the long-term average of 11 cyclones will form in the current cyclone season between November and April, with the northwest likely to receive more than five.
Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Richard Pullin