Australia’s Trade Surplus Widens

Australia posted a record trade surplus in October, twice as large as economists forecast, as coal exports surged and import growth stagnated.

The trade surplus expanded to A$2.95 billion ($1.9 billion) from a revised A$1.25 billion in September, the Bureau of Statistics said in Sydney today.

Increased shipments of raw materials have so far helped Australia’s A$1 trillion economy avoid it first recession since 1991, unlike the U.S., U.K., Europe and Japan. Central bank Governor Glenn Stevens cut borrowing costs this week by one percentage point to a six-year low of 4.25 percent as consumer spending stalled and the global slowdown deepened.

The local currency’s 26 percent drop against the U.S. dollar this year increased returns from exports when companies converted their offshore earnings into local dollars.

Import growth slowed to 0.3 percent in October from 7.1 percent in September. Consumer goods imports rose 1 percent and imports of capital equipment, including aircraft and machinery, fell 2 percent.

The domestic economy is showing further signs of cooling. Home-building approvals slumped 5.4 percent in October to the lowest since 2001, the statistics bureau also reported today.

Retail sales have gained an average of just 0.1 percent a month this year, according to government trend figures, down from 0.6 percent monthly growth last year.

Exports rose 7 percent to A$28.1 billion in October, today’s report showed. Coal shipments surged 20 percent.

The terms of trade, a measure of the nation’s export income, increased 21 percent in the three months through September, according to government figures released this week.

Australia’s economy advanced 1.9 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier. That compares with 0.7 percent growth in the U.S., 0.3 percent in the U.K. and 0.7 percent expansion in Europe.

Australia’s Trade Surplus Widens,
12/4/2008 5:44:54 AM