Pete Wargent blogspot

CEO AllenWargent Property Buyers, & WargentAdvisory (institutional). 6 x finance author.

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Friday, 5 May 2017

Port Hedland exports rebound, but...

Iron ore cargo shipped rebounds

Pilbara Ports delivered a total monthly throughput of 55 million tonnes for the month of April 2017, up by a modest 3 per cent from the same month last year.

The Port of Port Hedland achieved a monthly throughput of 42.9Mt, for a solid increase of 13 per cent from 2016,

And looking specifically at the main commodity of iron ore, exports for the month totalled 42.2Mt, for an increase of 12 per cent from the prior year. 

The Pilbara experienced a tropical low in March and heavy rainfall, but iron ore cargo shipped rebounded solidly last month.

Thus over the year to April a record high 488.6Mt of iron ore cargo was shipped from the Port of Port Hedland. 

GDP pothole

Despite the strong annual result quarterly volumes were heavily impacted by the weather, and even after accounting for seasonality the first quarter of 2017 is going to be a soft one for Australian commodity export volumes. 

This ties with what we saw in yesterday's international trade figures - a record quarterly trade surplus of a whisker under $9 billion was driven by rising commodity prices, but export volumes were actually down. 

When commodity prices are behaving so wildly real GDP can become somewhat misleading as a metric.

Australia's index of commodity prices is highly skewed towards iron ore, coal, and now LNG.

The national accounts will record a weak result for real GDP in the first quarter, while nominal GDP appears likely to soar. 

Budget whacked

Interestingly, the national accounts in the second quarter of the year may face a different problem altogether.

Export volumes will doubtless take a hit thanks to Cyclone Debbie - which continued well into the month of April - and the ensuing "force majeure" declared by a number of Queensland coal producers.

By a curious twist, therefore, it's not entirely out of the question that we could see extremely weak back-to-back GDP prints, possibly even...well, let's not speculate too much!

And commodity prices are now coming under severe pressure too. 

Dalian iron ore futures hit limit down within the first hour of trade yesterday, and the Metal Bulletin spot price was similarly routed, declining by $3.48 or a horrible 5 per cent to $65.20/tonne.


That was the sorry sound of another version of the Budget papers getting shredded.

The Federal Budget 2017-18 is due for release at 7.30pm on Tuesday, and it should be a cracker with so much speculation as to what plans for the Treasurer has for the housing market and for infrastructure spending. 

See here for what I reckon is coming (in essence, not very much for housing, but there could be some big calls on borrowing to invest in infrastructure). 

Previous budgets have all but 'wished' Australia's Budget back to surplus by assuming wages growth would rise to 3.5 per cent by 2019-20, but such a fudge could hardly be credible today with nominal wages growth tracking at record lows.