Australia’s Trade Deficit Widens

Australia’s trade deficit widened more than economists expected in February as coal exports declined and imports of machinery rose., Bloomberg 4/1/2010 11:10:02 AM

The shortfall swelled to A$1.9 billion ($1.7 billion) from a revised A$1.1 billion in January, the Bureau of Statistics said in Sydney.

The weaker trade balance may give central bank Governor Glenn Stevens scope to keep borrowing costs unchanged next week, after becoming the only policy maker among the Group of 20 to boost the benchmark interest rate four times since October.

Exports fell 1 percent to A$19.9 billion in February, today’s report showed. Shipments of coal declined 12 percent.

Imports rose 2 percent to A$21.8 billion. Machinery and industrial equipment imports rose 23 percent.

Rising demand from China for iron ore is helping stoke investor demand for shares of Rio Tinto Group, the world’s third-largest mining company.

Morgan Stanley on March 25 raised its 2010-2012 earnings forecast for Rio by as much as 14 percent. Contract iron ore prices may increase 65 percent this year amid stronger-than- expected demand from steel mills in China, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said this month.

Iron ore shipments from Western Australia’s Port Hedland, the world’s largest bulk exporting port, will double in three years as BHP Billiton Ltd. expands its overseas sales of the steelmaking ingredient, Andre Bush, the city’s Port Authority chief executive officer, said in January in an interview.

Signs of a rebound in export demand were among reasons that Governor Stevens raised the central bank’s benchmark lending rate by a quarter percentage point last month, as well as October, November and December.

Australia’s Trade Deficit Widens