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By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, March 3 (Reuters) - Canada’s stronger-than-expected growth figures for the fourth quarter show the economy is heading in the right direction, Finance Minister Joe Oliver told Reuters on Tuesday.
Oliver, speaking on the sidelines of an event in Toronto, also repeated a promise to balance the budget in 2015/16 despite an oil-price slump that has cut government revenues.
Statistics Canada said earlier on Tuesday that gross domestic product in the fourth quarter grew at an annualized rate of 2.4 percent, greater than the 2.0 percent economists had expected.
“I think it shows the core growth, the real growth in the economy, is moving apace,” said Oliver. “(The figures) are confirmation that we’re moving on the direction we thought we would.”
Oliver said Canada, a major oil exporter, would have balanced budget in the coming fiscal year: “We’re more constrained because of the decline in the price of oil, but we will get there.”
Oliver said in January that he would not unveil the budget before April, citing market volatility caused by plunging crude prices.
He would not speculate on future oil prices, saying he would wait for private economists’ forecasts ahead of the budget.
The price of U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude, the North American benchmark, dropped by more than half between June 2014 and January because of abundant supply. It has recently been trading close to the $50 mark, up from a low of $45. (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Von Ahn)