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The scores are in, and they’re big. Australia’s corporate sector chalked up its highest level of growth in operating profit during the December quarter in almost 17 years, reinforcing what analysts have described as a solid February reporting season.

A strong showing from the mining sector, which rebounded from a slump a year earlier, saw overall company operating profits rose 20.1 per cent quarter on quarter in the three months ended December 31, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This was up from a revised 1.5 per cent (previously 1 per cent) in the September quarter.

This was the fastest pace of growth since the March quarter of 2001, when operating profit grew by just over one-third. Today’s December quarter data eclipsed the 8 per cent growth forecast by economists in a Bloomberg survey.

Compared to a year ago, profits were up 26.2 per cent.

Less encouraging though were data showing wages and salaries contracted 0.5 per cent in the December quarter, but up 1 per cent from a year earlier and only besting headline inflation by half of one per cent over that period. This dovetails with the Australian central bank’s concerns about the “mixed” health of the domestic labour market.

Data also showed inventories rose 0.3 per cent in the December quarter from the previous three months, and up 1.6 per cent from a year ago. This was a little higher than expectations for a 0.5 per cent quarter on quarter rise, and from a revised 0.9 per cent advance (previously 0.8 per cent) in the September quarter.

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