Trade deficit halves in December

By Leith van Onselen

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released trade data for the month of December, with Australia recording a seasonally-adjusted trade deficit of $2,261 million. The result was worse than analyst’s expectations, who had expected a trade deficit of only $1.85 billion.

It was the ninth monthly trade deficit in a row and followed the $1,016 million deficit recorded in November (revised up from $925 million) and the $1,140 million deficit recorded in October (revised up from $877 million).

The next chart shows the quarterly breakdown. As you can see, this quarter’s trade balance has improved, registering a $1,307 million improvement from the September quarter:

ScreenHunter_5881 Feb. 03 12.09

In seasonally adjusted terms, exports rose $374 million (1%) in December to $27,243 million, whereas imports fell by $206 million (1%) to $27,680 million, driven by falling intermediate and other merchandise goods,

Australia’s biggest export commodity – iron ore (22.3% share) – rose by $995 million in December in raw terms to $5,430 million. Australia’s second and fourth biggest exports – coal (15.0% share) and gold (4.9% share) – also rose by $354  million and $435 million respectively. By contrast, Australia’s third biggest export commodity – gas (6.5% share) fell by $27 million over the month in raw terms (see next chart).

ScreenHunter_5882 Feb. 03 12.20

Exports to China – Australia’s biggest market – rose by $772 million to $7,694 million in raw terms, with its share of total exports at 31.6%. Exports to our second, third and fourth biggest markets – Japan (18.2% share), Korea (7.7% share) and India (3.7%) – also rose by $568 million, $268 million and $197 million respectively (see next chart).

ScreenHunter_5883 Feb. 03 12.27

As always, Western Australia dominated the nation’s exports. It alone accounted for a whopping 45% of Australia’s merchandise exports in December, with the state’s exports also rising 20% to $10,919 million in raw terms (see below chart).

ScreenHunter_5884 Feb. 03 12.30

Similarly, Western Australia continues to be the state driving the nation’s trade balance, although Queensland and South Australia are also paying their way. By contrast, the prime rent-seeking (banking & finance) states of Victoria and New South Wales remain heavily in deficit (see next chart).

ScreenHunter_5885 Feb. 03 12.32

Finally, Australia’s services trade balance improved marginally in December (+$6 million in seasonally-adjusted terms), with net tourism exports rising by $32 million:

ScreenHunter_5886 Feb. 03 12.35

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