Peter Costello

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Balance of Payments - June Quarter 2005

NO.074

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS – JUNE QUARTER 2005

Data released this morning by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that Australia’s current account deficit (CAD) for the June quarter 2005 narrowed significantly, falling by $2.4billion to $12.6billion, reflecting falls in both the trade and net income deficits.

The trade deficit fell by $2billion to $4.9billion, its lowest level since the March quarter 2003. The June quarter balance of payments incorporates the impact of higher iron ore and coal export contract prices that took effect on 1April2005, underpinned by strong global demand for Australia’s commodity exports. Increased contract prices will continue to flow through to higher export values in the September quarter 2005, being the first full quarter in which the higher prices will apply to all contracted exports. In line with higher bulk commodity export prices, the terms of trade grew by 5.8percent in the June quarter to be 11.5percent higher through the year, and are now at their highest level since the March quarter 1974.

Responding to strong global demand for commodities, Australia’s mining sector has made a significant investment in new capacity over the past three years, spending more than $27billion. These increases in production capacity, combined with measures to alleviate transport bottlenecks at key ports, will see mineral export volumes grow strongly over 2005-06.

Abstracting from price effects, export volumes grew by 1.6percent in the June quarter and have increased by 1.9percent over the last year. Exports of non-rural goods grew by 2.6percent, with transport equipment, other manufactures and metals excluding gold showing the strongest growth. Rural exports grew by 3percent, led by wool and sheepskins, and other rural goods. This increase came despite lingering effects of dry weather continuing to limit exports of cereals and grain products.

Import volumes grew by 2percent in the June quarter, with imports of fuels and lubricants growing strongly due to higher imports of diesel and other crude oil related fuels and lubricants. Capital good imports also grew strongly as businesses continue to invest in new IT, plant and other equipment.

Australia’s net foreign debt was $430billion in the June quarter. The general government share of Australia’s net foreign debt was a low 5.3percent in the June quarter. The debt servicing ratio is currently at 9.5percent of export income compared with the peak in the early 1990s when the debt servicing ratio hit 20percent of export income.

The growth in Australia’s net external liabilities over the last decade has coincided with a period of sustained economic strength. The budget is in surplus, government debt is close to zero, the unemployment rate is at a 28-year low, and inflation and interest rates are at low levels by historical standards. It is only through careful economic management and maintaining the impetus for reform that the Australian economy will continue to record sustainable growth.

31August 2005
MELBOURNE

Contact: Amanda Kennedy
03 9650 0244

31 Aug 2005

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