Building approvals rose by 0.7 per cent in May as apartment growth ended a two-month run of declines.

Approvals for private sector houses fell a seasonally adjusted 0.3 per cent in the month, but the “other dwellings” category that includes apartment blocks and townhouses, rose 1.2 per cent to lift the overall figure.

Over the 12 months to May, total building approvals for dwellings fell by 19.6 per cent, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.

In trend terms, the NT was the biggest monthly loser with a 6.1 per cent decline in overall approvals, but apartment building helped the two most populous states of NSW and Victoria post rises of 0.7 and 1.5 per cent respectively.

Approvals for private sector houses fell 1.3 per cent in trend terms, driven by a continued slowdown in the eastern states.


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The value of total building approved fell 0.2 per cent in trend terms, dragged down by a 0.6 per cent fall in the value of residential building.

BIS Oxford Economics economist Maree Kilroy said the positive impact of the Reserve Bank’s back-to-back rate cuts won’t be seen in approvals figures for some time.

“Given the long lead times involved between new property sales and actual construction, the positive impact of falling borrowing costs will not materialise in the building approval data until Q1 2020,” Ms Kilroy said.

The Australian dollar was largely unmoved by the 1130 AEST release of the data, and that of separate figures showing the country’s trade surplus increased to a record $5.75 billion in May.

At 1150 AEST, the Aussie was worth 69.89 US cents.