CANBERRA: Australia’s trade slumped to a $628 million deficit in November, as weaker coal and grain exports combined with increased imports for the worst result in more than a year. Exports were flat for the month while imports grew by 1.0 per cent, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Friday. The result came in far below market expectations of a surplus of up to $800 million, with even the most pessimistic forecasts of a flat balance proving to be out of reach. The monthly deficit was the second in a row after the ABS also revised down October’s narrow $105 million surplus to a $302 million deficit. CommSec senior economist Ryan Felsman said the result was unexpected off the back of five straight surpluses through September. “Back-to-back trade deficits are surprising given decent increases in most of Australia’s commodity and services exports, and rising commodity prices amid a strengthening global economic backdrop,” Mr Felsman said.
Falling prices in key exports contributed to the weak start to the fourth quarter, Westpac economist Simon Murray said, including the November stall in the price of iron ore, which has since rallied.November imports were up 1.0 per cent, or $467 million, driven by an increase in capital goods, with aviation and telecommunications equipment leading the gains. Exports were largely flat on a seasonally adjusted basis – just $141 million higher at $31.8 billion – as a two per cent rise in non-rural goods such as iron ore helped offset a fall in cereals and grain, as well as a 23 per cent drop in notoriously volatile non-monetary gold exports.