Economy at a turning point

The mining investment boom is winding down sharply, with the next few months set to be a turning point for the Australian economy, a report by a leading business think tank has found.

The mining investment boom is winding down sharply, with the next few months set to be a turning point for the Australian economy, a report by a leading business think tank has found.

The value of planned projects, those under consideration or possible, fell 14.3 per cent, or $68.3 billion, from the last quarter, said Deloitte Access Economics in its Investment Monitor June quarter report, published on Tuesday.

The total value of resource projects in the researcher's database slipped for the second straight quarter, the first time that has occurred in a decade. It dropped by 5.6 per cent from the first three months of the year to $877.1 billion. Mining projects for the quarter were down 4.7 per cent from a year ago.

The value of definite projects that were under construction or committed grew 3.7 per cent to $468.1 billion, the highest on record.

"The profile of work in the Investment Monitor database suggests a peak in activity through 2013-14 is likely," Deloitte Access Economics partner Stephen Smith said in the report. The database contains 947 investment projects with a total value of $877.1 billion.

"Still, the value of work in the pipeline remains remarkable. At almost $200 billion, there is scope for a further lift - a last hurrah - before the peak."

The report came as a survey by industry researcher BIS Shrapnel said the transition away from mining-led growth towards other sectors such as building construction was expected to be "uncomfortably slow" and a "real nail-biter".

The forecaster said total national building commencements were expected to grow at 3 per cent in the 2013-14 financial year and a further 3 per cent in 2014-15.

Home construction was seen as not responding to lower interest rates as was expected, with a mixed outlook for the states and territories likely to lead to dwelling starts falling by 2 per cent in 2013-14. Residential construction was expected to grow 9 per cent in 2014-15 and 4 per cent in 2015-16.

A softer outlook for China was also likely to weigh on the wider Australian economy, Japanese broker Nomura said.

Nomura analyst Charles St Arnaud said the economy would be hit by its direct trade with China and a terms-of-trade shock from lower commodity prices. He said weaker Chinese growth could shave up to 0.7 percentage points off Australia's projected growth for 2014.

Another report, by credit data agency Veda, found non-mining states were growing faster than mining states in business credit demand for the first time in two years.

Veda's commercial credit risk general manager, Moses Samaha, said the stronger growth in non-mining states could be driven by a response to lower interest rates in these states, and by a lower number of investment decisions in mining states.

Mr Smith said a peak in mining investment was inevitable, but it was still not clear when it would occur and how quick the decline would be. He said a plateau in investment, rather than a free fall after the peak, was more likely.

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