Goods trade surplus reduces

Media Release
Released
23/12/2020

A goods trade surplus of just under $2 billion has been recorded for November, down from $4.7 billion in October, according to newly released data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

ABS Head of International Statistics, Branko Vitas said: “An 11 per cent increase in imports and a small increase in exports has more than halved the goods trade surplus this month. This is the first time since November 2018 that the goods trade surplus has dropped below the $2 billion mark”.

The change in the surplus was impacted by a $1,218 million (10 per cent) decrease in exports to China combined with a $889 million (11 per cent) increase in imports from China.

Total exports increased $166 million (1 per cent) in November 2020. Key drivers of the increase were a $746 million (39 per cent) increase in exports of non-monetary gold, mostly to Singapore, and a $368 million (16 per cent) increase in exports of gas.

“It’s not unusual to see large non-monetary gold exports to Singapore,” said Mr Vitas, “especially since 2012 when Singapore removed the GST from investment-grade precious metals”.

Increases in exports of gold coin and oil seeds also helped buffer the goods trade surplus. Gold coin increased $143 million (153 per cent), and oil seeds increased $142 million, as the export season for canola commenced.

Offsetting these increases, metalliferous ores declined $1.2 billion (9 per cent) with iron ore contributing substantially, declining $851 million (8 per cent), following a record high in October. Despite the decrease, iron ore remained relatively high by historical standards.

Coal exports also declined, down $254 million (8 per cent), with hard coking coal leading the decline, down $186 million (11 per cent) and thermal coal also down, declining $161 million (13 per cent). 

Imports increased $2.9 billion (11 per cent), to $28.6 billion in November. “This is the fifth highest monthly imports value on record” said Mr Vitas. “It was driven by transport equipment, up $1.1 billion (462 per cent), almost all of which was aircraft from Australia’s second largest imports source country, the United States of America”.

Further driving the increase in imports value was telecommunications and sound equipment, up $548 million (33 per cent), predominantly mobile phones from China, and road vehicles, up $258 million (8 per cent). The strength seen in road vehicle imports in recent months represents a substantial rebound from the relatively low trade observed earlier in the year due to COVID-19.

The ABS would like to thank all those who contributed to this data.

Media Notes

•    The estimates in this publication are on an original, current price (merchandise trade) basis only, not a Balance of Payments (BoP) basis. This means that the data is on a customs basis, whereas BoP data are derived from the customs data by applying adjustments for factors such as valuation, coverage, timing and residence. The official monthly estimate for November will be published on 7 January 2020 in International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia. Future preliminary international merchandise trade estimates, will be published approximately two weeks prior to the advertised release date of International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia.
•    When reporting ABS data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or ABS) must be attributed as the source. 
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