April 4, 2012 / 7:33 PM / in 6 years

Ontario economy grows modestly in fourth quarter

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario’s growth slowed in the final quarter of last year, suggesting a modest and uneven recovery for Canada’s industrial engine.

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan delivers the provincial budget at Queens Park in Toronto, March 27, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

An Ontario government report released on Wednesday showed the economy of Canada’s most populous province and manufacturing hub grew 0.5 percent in the October-December period, following a 0.8 percent expansion in the third quarter and a slight contraction in the second quarter of 2011.

The province, which relies heavily on exports of autos and parts to the United States, said exports rose 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter while imports fell by 0.9 percent.

Ontario’s real GDP rose 1.8 percent in 2011, down from a 3.0 percent climb in 2010.

In its budget released last week, Ontario’s minority Liberal government estimated that growth would come in at 1.7 percent in 2012 and 2.2 percent in 2013, slightly below private sector assumptions.

The government halted corporate tax cuts and vowed to rein in public sector labor costs in an effort to eliminate its C$15.2 billion ($15.2 billion) deficit in six years.

The opposition left-wing New Democratic Party has since asked the Liberals to adopt other measures such as an income tax hike for Ontario’s highest earners in exchange for supporting the budget.

The right-leaning Conservatives have already rejected the government’s spending plan, so the Liberals need support from the NDP to avoid a snap election.

($1 = $1 Canadian)

Reporting by Claire Sibonney; Editing by Janet Guttsman

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