Australian Trade Surplus Narrows Sharply in October -- Update

By James Glynn Features Dow Jones Newswires

Australia's monthly trade surplus narrowed sharply in October as iron ore and coal exports weakened, while imports from China climbed.

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Australia posted a trade surplus of 105 million Australian dollars (US$79.4 million) in October, compared with a surplus of A$1.6 billion in September, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Thursday. The figure was sharply lower than analysts' expectations of a surplus of A$1.4 billion.

Exports fell 3.0% in the month as the value of iron ore sales to China dropped 10%, while coal exports were 3.0% lower in value.

Annette Beacher, the head of economic analysis at TD Securities in Asia, said the import buildup was probably linked to firms adding to inventories ahead of the Christmas period at the end of December.

Meanwhile, softness in exports was due mostly to price weakness. Ms. Beacher warned that exports could be similarly depressed in November.

Persistent weakness in the trade numbers, could also cast a cloud over fourth quarter GDP growth numbers.

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"This is a disappointing start to the December quarter, with the monthly trade surplus having averaged 1.0 billion dollars in the September quarter," said Andrew Hanlan, senior economist at Westpac.

Still, the medium-term outlook for the trade balance is likely to include rising exports of liquefied natural gas, with new plants starting to come on stream, Mr. Hanlan added.

The Australian dollar fell on the weaker number, ending trading in Asia at around 0.7645 U.S. cents.

-Write to James Glynn at james.glynn@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 07, 2017 00:57 ET (05:57 GMT)