MELBOURNE: Strong consumer spending is expected to help the Australian economy power ahead during the next nine months, according to the Westpac/Melbourne Institute.

Its leading index of economic activity climbed 1.3 points in November, bringing the annualised rate of growth to 6%, well above its long term trend of 4%.

Westpac bank's chief economist Bill Evans says the figures show the fastest annualised growth rate of the index since February 2000, with the index now above trend for most of 2006.

He adds: "It continues to point to a solid pick-up in economic growth in the first half of 2007."

Growth is expected to accelerate to 3.2% during the year to November 2007, up from 2.2% in the year earlier period.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff