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Australia December Trade Deficit A$3.535 Billion

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Australia posted a seasonally adjusted merchandise trade deficit of A$5.353 in December, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday - tumbling 30 percent on month.

The headline figure missed forecasts for a shortfall of A$2.450 billion following the upwardly revised A$2.727 billion deficit in November (originally -A$2.906 billion).

Exports were down A$1.243 billion or 5 percent on month to A$25.247 billion.

Non-rural goods fell A$1.078 billion (7 percent) and rural goods fell A$392 million (9 percent). Non-monetary gold rose A$121 million (10 percent).

Net exports of goods under merchanting remained steady at A$14 million. Services credits rose A$108 million (2 percent).

Imports eased A$434 million or 1.0 percent to A$28.782 billion.

Intermediate and other merchandise goods fell A$399 million (4 percent), while capital goods fell A$176 million (3 percent) and consumption goods shed A$57 million (1 percent).

Non-monetary gold surged A$108 million (39 percent) and services debits added A$89 million (1 percent).

For all of 2015, the trade deficit was A$33.5 billion following the A$9.9 billion shortfall in 2014.

Also on Wednesday:

• The ABS said that the total number of building approvals issued in Australia spiked a seasonally adjusted 9.2 percent on month in December, coming in at 18,868.

That topped forecasts for an increase of 4.5 percent following the revised 12.4 percent contraction in November.

On a yearly basis, approvals slipped 2.5 percent - also beating forecasts for a decline of 7.2 percent after the 8.4 percent contraction in the previous month.

Approvals for private sector houses added 5.4 percent on month and 4.5 percent on year to 9,868, while approvals for private sector dwellings excluding houses spiked 12.8 percent on month and fell 6.5 percent on year to 8,839.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of the value of total building approved rose 1.1 percent in December following a fall of 3.8 percent in the previous month.

The value of residential building rose 4.7 percent following a fall of 8.9 percent in the previous month. The value of non-residential building fell 6.1 percent following a rise of 8.2 percent a month earlier.

• The service sector in Australia continued to contract in January, albeit at a slower pace, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group showed with a PMI score of 48.4.

That's up sharply from 46.3 in December, although it remains well beneath the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction for the fourth straight month.

Among the individual components of the survey, supplier deliveries and selling prices expanded, while wages moved into contraction for the first time since 2009.

Stocks, employment and new orders also contracted.

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