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Australia posts first trade surplus since March 2014
  Release time: 2017/01/12 16:30:00  Author: 

Australia's trade balance has returned to surplus for the first time in almost three years.

Bureau of Statistics figures show a trade surplus of $1.24 billion for November.

That is up from a $1.1 billion trade deficit in October and marks the first monthly surplus since March 2014.

Capital Economics' chief economist Paul Dales said the surplus has been driven by the recent rapid rise in prices for iron ore and coal.

"When prices for exports rise, the value of those exports rise and that improves the trade position," he explained.

"So it really is just a sign that higher commodity prices are starting to filter through into higher national incomes."

However, JP Morgan's Tom Kennedy said the boost to national incomes is likely to be short-lived, with iron ore and coal prices expected to come back down to earth in 2017.

"There are signs such a normalisation is already playing out, with spot prices for premium hard coking coal now more than 30 per cent below the fourth quarter of 2016's peak," he wrote in a note.

"As a result, it seems unlikely the improvement in today's trade release will be sustained and deterioration in 2017 is now likely."

The other drawback from today's trade surplus is that it will not provide much assistance to Australia's fourth quarter GDP data, after the nation posted an economic contraction in the September quarter.

Mr Dales said export volumes also need to rise in order to boost economic growth.

"It might still be the case that the external sector was actually a fairly large drag on real GDP growth in the fourth quarter of last year, despite having this nominal, or cash, surplus."

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