Australia’s trade surplus increased to $4.5 billion in January, the second largest surplus on record, as the value of gold exports exceeded expectations.
Exports were up five per cent for the month to $39.9 billion while imports were up three per cent to $35.4 billion, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday.
Market consensus had been for the trade balance to drop to a surplus of $2.8 billion from $3.8 billion in December.
‘The quality of Australian goods is well regarded and the lower Australian dollar is providing a competitive boost for exporters,’ CommSec chief economist Craig James said.
The benefits of gold exports almost tripled, rising from $790 million in December to $2.2 billion in January, and made up $1.4 billion of the $1.9 billion total increase in exports for the month.
The value of metal ores and coal exports increased by three per cent and six per cent respectively, adding $630 million to the credit side of the country’s books.
But mineral exports to China fell during the month, with the amount of iron ore lump falling 20 per cent and the quantity of iron ore fines falling eight per cent while the amount of hard coking coal sent to the country declined 12 per cent.
Overall imports increased by $1.1 billion, with the value of incoming capital goods up 12 per cent, consumption goods up six per cent while intermediate and other merchandise goods were up one per cent.
Westpac analyst Andrew Hanlan said it was the second largest surplus on record in dollar terms, topped only by the December 2016 surplus of $4.7 billion.