Iron ore exports from Western Australia are used in the steel furnaces of China.

Exports to China boost trade surplus

Western Australian merchandise exports were up 36 per cent in February compared to the same month in 2016, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, while the national trade surplus reached the second highest level on record.

Sales to China from WA were up dramatically, with exports of $5.2 billion in the month, a whopping 62.3 per cent increase on February 2016, when it had been at its lowest level since 2012.

Exports to Japan were 17.3 per cent higher in February 2017 at $1.4 billion.

Overall, state merchandise exports came in at $9.8 billion.

The numbers show that the trend is now for the better after a significant reduction in export sales that has helped put pressure on the state’s economy for years.

One notable number is that exports in the 12 months to the end of February were $111.6 billion, the highest number for any 12 month period since the year ending May 2015.

The Bureau also released data comparing commodity exports for the past three months.

Iron ore lump sales were up 12 per cent on January, to about $1.35 billion, although fines revenue fell 5 per cent to about $4 billion.

The Minerals Council of Australia said that the improvement since February of last year was even more substantial, with iron ore exports up 53 per cent in just 12 months.

"The increases in export earnings reflect higher prices for key commodities on global markets and the Australian mining industry’s role as a major exporter to key Asian markets," Council chief executive Brad Pearson said.

"The investment phase of the mining boom has underwritten an expansion in production which, in turn, is making a major contribution to Australian economic growth."


Nationally, Australia exported around $3.6 billion more of goods and services than it imported across the whole month of February.

That was nearly double the market estimate predicting a surplus of $1.9 billion.
But the big jump would not necessarily enough to make the a big impact on GDP growth, according to UBS.

“Over the last year, the resurgence of commodity prices has been the main driver of booming export values delivering a record trade surplus, albeit total export volumes also jumped 9 per cent year on year,” the investment bank said in a research note today.

“However, the trade data to date, especially the net fall of commodity exports values across January and February, and looming hit to coal exports in late March, still implies a large net export drag on March quarter real GDP, and hence downside risk to our growth forecast and expected Q1 current account surplus.”

The bank had forecast March growth of 0.8 per cent.

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