Coal ex­ports help fire up econ­omy

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - PRASHANT MEHRA

PROSPECTS for im­proved eco­nomic growth across Aus­tralia have been boosted by a re­cov­ery in coal ex­ports, of­fi­cial fig­ures show.

Aus­tralia’s trade bal­ance rose to a sur­plus of $ 2.47 bil­lion in May, from a re­vised $ 90 mil­lion sur­plus in April when sup­plies of the coun­try’s se­cond largest ex­port earner slumped in the wake of Cy­clone Deb­bie.

Econ­o­mists were only ex­pect­ing the sur­plus to re­cover to $ 1.1 bil­lion in May.

The value of ex­ports climbed by $ 2.58 bil­lion, or 9 per cent, dur­ing the month, with the value of coal ex­ports surg­ing 62 per cent. Min­eral oil ex­ports, led by liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas, also con­trib­uted, ris­ing 39 per cent.

The price of im­ports rose by $ 205 mil­lion, or 1 per cent.

Citi an­a­lyst Josh Wil­liamson said the re­cov­ery in coal ex­ports from Queens­land re­versed the im­pact of the trop­i­cal storm in late March and early April.

“The stel­lar surge in coal ex­ports re­flected the catch- up in ship­ments after the dis­rup­tions to rail­ways and lo­gis­tics caused by Cy­clone Deb­bie,” Mr Wil­liamson said.

“More so than we had an­tic­i­pated, coal mines restarted op­er­a­tions quickly, with stock­piles be­ing re­leased as the rail­way net­work re­sumed op­er­a­tion.”

He said he ex­pected coal ex­ports to re­main strong in the near term as min­ers boost ship­ments to make up for lost ton­nage, and prices re­main el­e­vated.

As a re­sult, net ex­ports could still con­trib­ute to gross do­mes­tic prod­uct growth in the three months to June, econ­o­mists said.

“Ow­ing to April’s dis­rup­tions, it’s now go­ing to be touch and go whether net ex­ports drag on GDP growth in the June quar­ter, but net ex­ports are on track to re­turn to growth in the Septem­ber quar­ter,” Na­tional Aus­tralia Bank eco­nom­ics di­rec­tor David de Garis said.

Ex­ports fell 1.6 per cent in the three months to March, drag­ging eco­nomic growth to an anaemic 0.3 per cent in the quar­ter.

TD Se­cu­ri­ties strate­gist An­nette Beacher said she ex­pected GDP growth of 0.8 per cent in the June quar­ter, based on con­sumer and trade data re­leased so far.

A coal ship is guided into New­cas­tle Har­bour.

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