* Job ads jump most in over four years, housing stays strong
* Underpins expectations RBA to hold rates steady on Tuesday
* GDP data due Wednesday expected to show economy grew 2.6
(Adds detail, housing data, analyst comment)
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY, March 3 Australian job advertisements in
newspapers and on the Internet jumped by the most in over four
years in February, a rare piece of goods news on employment that
presages a pick-up in hiring after months of weakness.
A survey by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group
out on Monday showed job advertisements rose 5.1
percent in February, from January, with all the gains coming in
"The job ads data, inasmuch as they encapsulate broad labour
demand, deserve the most attention, and corroborate the range of
other indicators which have suggested modest improvement in the
labour market," said Michael Turner, a strategist at RBC Capital
The jump in ads contrasts markedly with recent announcement
of planned job losses at some high profile companies and an
increase in the official unemployment rate to a decade peak of
6 percent in January.
It will also be a comfort to the Reserve Bank of Australia
(RBA) ahead of its March policy meeting on Tuesday.
The central bank is considered almost certain to hold rates
at a record low of 2.5 percent, where they have been since a cut
last August. Last month the bank closed the door on further
easing saying evidence of a strength in housing and consumption
argued for a period of steady policy.
A Reuters poll of 19 economists found all expected a steady
outcome, but were more divided on the direction of the next move
with five tipping a cut and 13 looking for a hike.
Other data out on Monday tended to support the RBA's
optimism on the economy.
Home prices across Australia's major cities steadied in
February after a run of strong gains. Figures from property
consultant RPData-Rismark showed overall dwelling prices were up
9.5 percent compared to February last year, led by 14.1 percent
growth in Sydney.
The Housing Industry Association reported sales of new homes
rose 0.5 percent in January, putting them up 17 percent on the
same month last year.
The strength of home prices has boosted household wealth and
underpinned firmer spending in recent months, while also laying
the foundation for a revival in home building. The latter is
urgently needed to help offset a slowdown in once red-hot mining
Business investment fell sharply last quarter and likely
took a chunk out of economic growth. Figures for gross domestic
product (GDP) are due out on Wednesday which is expected to show
the economy expanded by 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter of
last year, compared to the previous quarter.
Growth for the year is seen picking up to 2.6 percent, from
2.3 percent, thanks chiefly to strength in exports as past
spending on mines boosts production.
Data out on Monday showed businesses overall reported better
sales and profits for the fourth quarter, though there were wide
differences between sectors. While gross profits at
manufacturers slipped, mining, construction and wholesale trade
all made more money.
They were also paying more with the total bill for wages and
salaries rising a healthy 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter,
boosting household incomes.
Diana Mousina, an economist at Commonwealth Bank of
Australia, noted annual profit growth was the highest since late
2010 and will lift nominal, or current price, GDP.
"Nominal outcomes are important because we all live in the
nominal economy," said Mousina. "It is our experience with the
prices we pay and the wages we earn. Businesses will benefit
from rising revenues because it encourages labour hiring
and capital expenditure."
(Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Eric Meijer)