Australia’s economic growth is expected to come to a virtual halt in the second half of 2012, a private sector survey shows.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Leading Index, which indicates the likely pace of economic activity three to nine months into the future, was at 0.2 per cent in April, well below its long-term average of 2.6 per cent.

‘‘The Leading Index is pointing to a sharp slowdown over the second half of this year,’’ Westpac senior economist Matthew Hassan said in a statement today.

Australia recorded gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 4.3 per cent in the 12 months to March 2012, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

Mr Hassan said the index’s readings over the past six months had been at their lowest point since 2009, although still well above the -6.0 rate recorded during the global financial crisis.

According to the index, the biggest drags on economic growth are expected to be rising unit labour costs (down 0.7 per cent), dwelling approvals (down 0.6 per cent) and commodity prices (down 0.5 per cent).

The biggest contribution to growth is expected to come from positive contributions from US industrial production, which historically has provided an indicator of Australia’s economic performance (up 1.5 per cent).

AAP