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Australia Posts Surprise Trade Deficit For Second Month


Australia posted a surprise trade deficit for the second consecutive month in February as shipments of coal and metals tumbled, the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed Wednesday.

The seasonally adjusted trade deficit fell to A$480 million in February from a revised A$971 million in January, which was the first monthly shortfall in 11 months. Moreover, this was the first back-to-back deficit since early 2010.

Economists had expected the balance to be in a surplus of A$1.1 billion. Also, the January trade deficit was revised down from the originally reported deficit of A$673 million.

Exports fell 2 percent month-on-month in February to A$24.4 billion. In seasonally adjusted terms, exports of coal, coke and briquettes fell 16 percent from a month earlier. Shipments of other mineral fuels dropped 4 percent.

Exports of metals excluding non-monetary gold fell 10 percent month-on-month. Partly offsetting these falls was the metal ores and minerals component, exports of which rose 7 percent, the statistical agency said. Overseas sales of non-monetary gold surged 43 percent.

Imports also weakened, falling 4 percent over the month to A$24.9 billion. Imports of consumption goods fell 7 percent month-on-month and intermediate and other merchandise goods fell 3 percent. Purchases of capital goods declined 5 percent.

Exports and imports of services slid 3 percent and 1 percent compared to January.

Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens on Tuesday pointed to likely easing of monetary policy in May, but said the forthcoming inflation data will be key to the bank's next policy moves. The central bank expects output growth to be weaker than initially expected.

The RBA kept the key policy rate unchanged during yesterday's meeting. The economy expanded by a weaker-than-expected 0.4 percent during the fourth quarter. The central bank forecasts the economy to grow 3.5 percent in the year ending June 2012.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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