Australia records first monthly trade deficit in 11 months

Australia recorded a seasonally-adjusted trade deficit of A$673 million in January 2012, the first monthly deficit since February 2011, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Exports of metal ores and minerals fell 15 per cent, or A$1.1 billion. This was in part caused by cyclone Heidi, which prevented companies like Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals loading ships in Port Hedland in Western Australia.

Non-monetary gold, exports of which fell 56 per cent, or another A$1.1 billion, is a volatile item whose shipment mostly depends on the Perth Mint. It imports, refines and exports large quantities of gold, often in different months.

Services trade, however, contributed positively to January's trade balance. Services exports rose 3 per cent for the month, with travel up 4 per cent and other services - mainly business - up 3 per cent. Services imports rose 2 per cent.

Manufacturing exports were also up, by 5 per cent, with transport equipment shipments ahead 29 per cent.

Weaker demand in Asia was reflected by a 17 per cent drop in exports to Japan, and a 28 per cent decrease in exports to ASEAN economies. Exports to China fell 23 per cent to A$5.2 billion, in part reflecting lower economic activity during the Lunar New Year holiday in January. However, there was continuing growth in exports to India, up 7 per cent in January.

Imports of intermediate and other merchandise goods fell 5 per cent, while capital goods dropped 1 per cent. There was an increase in imports of consumption goods - up 3 per cent - and non-monetary gold, up 6 per cent.



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