Trade Surplus Shrinks As Both Imports & Exports Drop

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

Another fall in the trade surplus in August as export and imports fell – but the reasons for the falls were very different.

Exports fell because of a slide in the value of gold shipments (by Australian miners) while imports dipped because of lower shipments of capital goods.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) preliminary data figures show that the value of exports fell 2% or $616 million to $28.319 billion from the revised July 2020 value of $28.935 billion.

Year-on-year, August 2020 the value of exports fell 16% or $5,545 million from August 2019. That was driven by price falls for coal and LNG in particular and lower volumes of coal shipped out of Australia.

Imports fell 7% to $1.785 billion to $24.026 billion from the revised July figure of $25.811 billion.

Year-on-year, August 2020 imports fell 7% from the same month in 2019, or $1.859 billion. In dollar terms that was a much smaller fall over the year from August 2019 than that for exports.

The falls left a trade surplus for August of $4.94 billion, down from $6.712 billion in August 2019, and less than half the record $10.6 billion in March of this year.

Mr. Branko Vitas, the ABS’ Program Manager for its International Statistics Branch said the primary driver for the decline in exports of goods was a $2.3 billion or 64% decline in exports of non-monetary gold (excluding gold coin), due to large declines in shipments to the UK and the US.

Both are the two major global gold trading centres.

Adding to the overall monthly fall in exports were lower-value shipments of LNG, textile fibres, and power generating machinery.

The ABS said iron ore exports rose (because of solid volumes and high prices above $US120 a tonne for the standard 62% Fe fines. Exports of oil and non-ferrous metals (copper, lead and zinc) also rose.

Mr Vitas said: “Exports of metalliferous ores have been consistently strong in recent months with an average export value of $11.7 billion per month since March 2020.”

“The strength of metalliferous ores continued in August 2020 with a $996 million (9 percent) increase on July 2020, and a $646 million or 6 percent increase on August 2019.”

The 7% fall in the value of imports was driven by declines lower shipments of transport equipment, office and ADP machines, and electrical machinery.

Imports of cars, SUV’s ans other motor vehicles continued to recover – up $339 million or 14% in August following increases in both June and July.

Glenn Dyer

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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