Australia January Trade Gap Widens as Floods Disrupt Coal

Australia’s trade deficit was twice as wide as economists forecast in January as floods in the northeastern state of Queensland disrupted coal exports and telecommunications equipment imports surged.

Imports exceeded exports by A$1.06 billion ($1.08 billion), from a revised A$688 million deficit in December that was larger than originally reported, the Bureau of Statistics said in Sydney today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 22 economists was for a shortfall of A$500 million.

The data validate central bank Governor Glenn Stevens’s decision to reduce interest rates four times last year to 3 percent, matching a half-century low, as commodity prices eased. Policy makers are trying to revive demand outside of a resource boom that is predicted to crest this year as they seek to extend 21 recession-free years.

“Part of the drop is probably related to Queensland floods which disrupted coal shipments,” said Alvin Pontoh, an Asia-Pacific strategist at TD Securities Inc. in Singapore. “For February, the deficit could widen further, but this will be largely due to the later timing of Chinese New Year this year, compared with last year.”

The Australian dollar was little changed after the data, trading at $1.0229 at 12:06 p.m. in Sydney.

Exports fell 1 percent to A$25 billion, led by a 5 percent drop in coal, coke and briquettes, today’s report showed. Imports advanced 1 percent to A$26.1 billion on a 52 percent surge in telecommunications equipment, the report showed.

Australia’s economy has been driven by demand from China for the nation’s iron ore, coal and natural gas. The nation’s unemployment rate, at 5.4 percent in January, is lower than 7.9 percent in the U.S.

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