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Friday 6 April 2018

Another trade surplus (record LNG exports)

LNG surges

There's been a lot of blame apportioned to immigration for economic undeperformance and unproductive employment, but it's not showing up much in Australia's trade data. 

February saw another $925 million surplus, which takes the cumulative surplus since November 2016 all the way up to $21 billion, despite weather disruption before Christmas. 

While iron ore and coal export values have rolled over a bit, LNG exports kicked off 2018 at a record clip, with annual values breaking records by the month, and LNG and gold combined now accounting for 20 per cent of the Reserve Bank's commodity index weights. 

Including unallocated items and re-exports, merchandise export values increased to $303 billion over the year to February, so there's been a handy contribution here to closing the budget deficit. 

At $100 billion, a third of Australia's annual exports have been bound for China, with values having increased by +14 per cent over the year. 

Finally, the services recovery appeared to stumble a little, with a net services deficit of just over $½ million in February. 

Chinese Lunar New Year fell into February this year, which might have played a bit of havoc with seasonal adjustments, but for whatever reason the tourism trade balance has taken a knock back of late. 

The wrap

Overall, trade could make a small positive contribution to GDP growth in the first quarter of 2018, after subtracting from it in the December quarter on weather disruption. 

This will come in handy given soft retail trade sales figures so far in 2018.