Business

Australia's trade surplus jumps 72% as exports improve

A coal dredger tears coal in an Australian mine.
Image caption Australia's coal exports have been picking up after being hurt by floods earlier this year

Australia's trade surplus surged in August as exports of coal and other minerals increased despite concerns of a global slowdown.

Shipments from Australia grew 8% from the previous month, while imports rose 3%, the statistical bureau said.

That resulted in a trade surplus of 3.1bn Australian dollars ($2.9bn; £1.9bn), the second-largest on record.

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) left the interest rate unchanged at 4.75%

The data comes amid concerns that fears of a slowdown may hurt demand for Australia's mineral exports.

"Export volumes are really kicking along and that will be a big fillip for the economy in the quarter," said Brian Redican of Macquarie.

Asia factor

Analysts said the fact that a huge amount of Australia's mineral shipments head to Asian economies has been a big factor in ensuring that its export sector sustains its momentum, despite global slowdown concerns.

They said that as economies like India and China see more people move from rural to urban centres, the demand for minerals will continue to rise.

"Both these countries have more than 1 billion people, and that is a big factor," David Lennox of Fat Prophets told the BBC.

As these countries undergo rapid urbanisation, they will also need to boost their power generation capacity in order to meet the increased demand for electricity.

"That process is not dependent on what happens in the US or European economies," Mr Lennox said.

He added that given these factors, exports of Australian minerals to the region will continue to grow.

Monetary easing?

However, despite the encouraging export numbers, the RBA indicated that it may ease its monetary policy going forward.

Glenn Stevens, the governor of the central bank, said the slowdown in the US and the ongoing debt crisis in Europe are likely to hurt global growth and also have an impact on Australia's economy.

"The indications are that the pace of near-term growth is unlikely to be as strong as earlier expected," he said in a statement.

There have been concerns that while its mining sector is booming, other parts of its economy are facing a tough time due to falling consumer demand.

However, the central bank insisted it was ready to act in a bid to boost demand.

"An improved inflation outlook would increase the scope for monetary policy to provide some support to demand, should that prove necessary." the bank said.

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