Australia’s trade balance returned to surplus in the final two months of 2013, helped by a strong rise in mining and agriculture exports.
Australia’s trade surplus was $468 million in December, following a surplus of $83 million in November, the first two surpluses since December 2011.
The November figure was revised from a deficit of $118 million.
During December, exports rose four per cent and imports were up two per cent.
JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy said shipments of iron ore and coal picked up during the month, a trend which is likely to continue as more mining production capacity come online after a couple years of record investment.
“Specifically, iron ore lump and fines were particularly robust, while thermal coal shipment volumes more than reversed a disappointing decline in November,” he said.
“By destination, it was the usual suspects behind this surge in demand, with shipment volumes to both China and Japan climbing higher which offset a pull back in exports to India and South Korea.”
The other major export contributor were agricultural exports, with much higher volumes of wheat and grain providing a significant boost.
Mr Kennedy expects the rise in imports to be short lived as the winding back in mining investment boom means there will be fewer imports of mining machinery.
“Import values should stabilise as resource investment falls, pulling back on demand for capital goods, and as the drift lower in the currency generates more import substitution,” he said.
Senior National Australia Bank economist Spiros Papadopoulos also said the result showed signs of strong domestic activity.
“We’ve had a gain in consumption imports and also capital imports, just again indicating that the domestic demand component seems to be running OK after an adequate level of consumer and business demand in the month of December,” he said.
“We also saw very good export performance that’s seen the trade position move back into positive territory.”
Mr Papadopoulos said most of the economic growth in 2014 is going to come from the exports sector.
“So this is a very good sign for the coming year,” he said.