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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

New Zealand raises benchmark interest rate to 3.5 per cent as economy grows at healthy pace

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - New Zealand has raised its benchmark interest rate for the fourth time this year, to 3.5 per cent.

The central bank on Thursday said it expects the economy to grow at a healthy annual rate of 3.7 per cent this year, driven by construction in the city of Christchurch, which is rebuilding after a devastating earthquake three years ago.

New Zealand's program of rate hikes is unusual among developed nations. Most are keeping rates at or near record lows as they try to encourage growth following the 2008 global economic downturn.

The bank raised its rate by 0.25 per cent for the fourth straight time.

New Zealand Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler says in a statement that inflation remains moderate. He says there would be an assessment period before any future rate hikes.

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