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Australia’s trade balance sharply widens in January, highest monthly surplus since end-2016
Australia’s trade balance sharply widened during the month of January, recording its highest monthly surplus since end of 2016. This was owing to a surge in the volatile non-monetary gold component, which had fallen sharply in the fourth quarter of 2018, coupled with a rise in other export components as well.
The monthly trade balance improved to a surplus of AUD4,581 million – the highest since December 2016. Underlying this was a 5.0 percent increase in exports, while imports rose 3.3 percent.
Resource exports surged 9.3 percent m/m, in large part due to a 173.8 percent increase in non-monetary gold (or AUD1,371 million increase). Coal increased by 6.2 percent and metal ores and minerals rose 3.4 percent.
Rural goods were up 2.4 percent, due to improvements in meat (5.5 percent) and wool (16 percent). Manufacturing goods fell 6.7 percent as transport equipment fell 41.7 percent. Service exports increased 0.6 percent as transport increased 0.5 percent and travel rose 0.6 percent.
Imports of consumption goods rose by 5.8 percent m/m, led by a surprisingly strong 13.5 percent increase in automobiles imports, which we find difficult to understand given the weakness in car sales. Capital goods imports rose 12.4 percent as transport equipment increased 43.5 percent and machinery & equipment increased 15.1 percent. Fuel imports fell 4.4 percent.