6 Apr 2011

Australia holds key interest rate

7:15 am on 6 April 2011

Australia's central bank has kept interest rates steady at 4.75% for the fifth month in a row.

The decision, on Tuesday, had been widely expected, as cautious consumers and a high Australian dollar help restrain inflation even as the country enjoys a massive trade and mining boom.

The bank says extreme weather in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia has temporarily boosted food prices for some items, while coal production is taking longer than expected to resume.

Trade slipped back into deficit for the first time in nearly a year, due to a fall in exports and a steep rise in imports.

Official figures show a trade deficit of $A205 million whereas the median economist forecast in a Reuters survey was for a surplus of $A950 million.

The deficit is also a steep turnaround from Australia's $A1.43 billion surplus in January, and breaks a run of 10 straight monthly trade surpluses.