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Australia's Trade Surplus Falls; Retail Sales Remain Flat

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Australia's trade surplus declined on falling exports and retail sales remained flat in October, official data showed Thursday.

The trade surplus decreased to A$4.5 billion from A$6.84 billion in September, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The surplus was expected to fall to A$6.5 billion.

Exports of goods and services decreased A$2.2 billion to A$40.75 billion. Meanwhile, imports rose slightly by A$140 million to A$36.25 billion.

Retail sales remained unchanged on month in October, following a 0.2 percent rise in September and a 0.4 percent increase in August, another report showed. Economists had forecast a 0.3 percent rise.

Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing and department stores sales dropped 0.8 percent each and household goods sales were down 0.2 percent.

These falls were offset by a 0.4 percent rise in cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services and a 0.1 percent rise in food retailing.

The stagnation in retail sales in October suggests that consumption growth remained sluggish in the fourth quarter, Marcel Thieliant, an economist at Capital Economics, said.

And while net exports should continue to support GDP growth, the weakness in consumption will probably convince the central bank to cut interest rates in February, the economist added.

Overall this is yet a disappointing retail result indicating no boost from recent policy measures, Matthew Hassan, an economist at Westpac noted.

While November may have seen some improvement, with early reports suggesting 'Black Friday' sales have been well-attended, the signs are still decidedly mixed, weak vehicle sales suggesting consumers are still in 'lock down' mode with discretionary spending, Hassan observed.

Data released on Wednesday showed that economic growth eased to 0.4 percent in the third quarter from 0.6 percent from a quarter ago.

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