Australia's economy expanded by more than expected in the last quarter, easing the risk of a recession.

This is despite raging bushfires and the coronavirus crisis wreaking havoc with tourism and travel at the start of the new year.  

The threat from the epidemic prompted the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to cut interest rates to an all-time low of 0.5% this week.

This came as part of an urgent global response that saw the US Federal Reserve spring an emergency policy easing. 

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg welcomed today's data showing the economy expanded by 0.5% last quarter, clocking its 29th consecutive year of growth without a recession. 

But as the outlook for the current quarter gets murkier given the rapid spread of the coronavirus, Frydenberg flagged an imminent fiscal stimulus. 

"The government is working on a targeted, responsible and scaleable series of measures that are designed to keep business in business, and Australians in jobs," Frydenberg said. 

The package would include a tax allowance for business investment, he said, without giving other details. 

The Treasury would release its estimate of the impact of the virus on Australia's economy tomorrow. 

Many economists expect GDP growth in the current quarter to contract as a ban on travellers from mainland China has hit the tourism, education and retail sectors, although today's data helped erase the risk of a recession for now.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed the A$2 trillion ($1.3 trillion) economy accelerated by 0.5% last quarter. Encouragingly, the previous quarter was revised upwards to a 0.6% increase from 0.4% earlier. 

That took the annual pace to 2.2%, but still below the 2.75% that policy makers consider "trend". 

Economists had predicted a quarterly rate of 0.3%, according to a median of 16 economists polled by Reuters. 

The surprise pick-up in fourth-quarter growth was helped by discretionary spending by households, following three rate cuts last year and tax benefits, as well as higher resource exports and rising home sales. 

Growth in the quarter was also supported by a surprise decline in the price of domestic goods and services, suggesting underlying growth remained weak despite a strong headline figure and pointing to softer-than-expected demand.