Labor hitches wagon to rating trifecta
Treasurer Wayne Swan has seized on a strong report card for the Australian economy by a global ratings agency as underlining Labor's credentials.
Fitch has affirmed Australia's triple-A rating with a stable outlook, although it warned the looming peak of the mining boom posed a threat to economic stability.
The approval reinforces Australia as one of just eight countries with the top rating from three separate global ratings agencies - Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings and Moody's.
"No Liberal government has ever achieved this coveted trifecta from all three global ratings agencies," Mr Swan said.
"Labor has got the big economic calls right to avoid recession during the global financial crisis."
Fitch analysts said Australia remained one of the strongest performing economies in the triple-A group but that its biggest challenge came from the mining boom.
"The eventual end of the mining boom will place greater pressure on the non-mining sector's ability to raise its competitiveness and in turn support potential growth," Fitch analysts said.
"It is still too early to judge how the economy will perform once this stage is reached, however."
Even so, Fitch noted Australia had built up the capacity to absorb economic shocks due to a combination of low public debt, a floating exchange rate and liberal trade and labour markets.
Australia's economy grew 0.6 per cent last quarter, a slight improvement from the September quarter, taking growth for the year to 3.1 per cent. The annual growth was the highest since 2007, when the economy grew by 3.8 per cent.
Even with the strong investment ratings, there are signs global demand for Australian government bonds has begun to cool from recent record levels.
"Offshore investors in Australian government bonds now hold 72.7 per cent of outstandings, down from 74.4 per cent in the third quarter of 2012," JP Morgan analyst Sally Auld said.
"Indeed, the waning enthusiasm for Australian government bonds by foreign investors is taking place in an environment where domestic fiscal fundamentals are deteriorating."
Fitch analysts said Australia's banks were among the strongest in the world on a stand-alone basis, despite their heavy reliance on wholesale funding markets.
The Reserve Bank is expected to leave the cash rate unchanged at 3 per cent when it meets on Tuesday.
Analysts say monthly data on building approvals and retail sales, due next week, will provide further indications of whether last year's monetary easing is gaining traction in the economy.