Trade surplus at 2yr high on import cut

Alex Druce
(Australian Associated Press)


A $2.06 billion drop in goods and services imports has lifted Australia’s trade surplus to its highest in two years, though economists warn this could signal a further decline in business and consumer spending.

Import debits dropped by six per cent to $34.2 billion in December, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data released on Tuesday, more than offsetting a two per cent decline in exports to $37.9 billion.

The total surplus was $3.68 billion, up 63 per cent on November’s result.

St George economics analyst Janu Chan said the figures looked great on the surface, but the weakness in imports foretold a less positive story of domestic demand.

“Moreover, the growing downside risks in the global economy also raise the question of whether the pace of export growth will be sustained,” he said.

The Australian dollar dipped at the time of the release, in tandem with disappointing retail trade figures.

The currency recovered ground after the Reserve Bank announced it was holding the cash rate steady at a record low of 1.5 per cent.

The value of capital goods imported into Australia fell by $1.07 billion, or 15 per cent, intermediate and other merchandise goods fell by $717 million, or six per cent, and consumption goods imports fell by $653 million, or seven per cent.

The nation’s non-monetary gold exports more than halved, dropping by $1.03 billion for the month, while the export of rural goods rose $353 million, or 10 per cent.


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