Trade deficit shrinks, building approvals down

Grain exports helped boost Australia's trade figures.

Grain exports helped boost Australia's trade figures.

Australia’s trade deficit has shrunk, but separate ABS figures show building approvals also eased in December.

In good economic news, Bureau of Statistics figures show the trade deficit declined 57 per cent in December to stand at just $436 million.

Over the quarter, Australia’s trade balance was $2.6 billion in the red, a 34 per cent improvement on the previous three-month period.

The improved trade balance came from both a slight rise in exports and a small fall in imports.

A 10 per cent seasonally adjusted rise in rural exports was a big boost, more than offsetting a 2 per cent fall in other areas.

Other mineral fuels were the main contributor to the decline, slumping 20 per cent.

Coal exports also eased slightly in the last month of 2014.

Tourism related earnings were up, however, climbing 1 per cent as the falling Australian dollar makes Australia a more attractive destination.

Assisting the smaller deficit was a 1 per cent fall in imports, led by a steep fall in fuels and lubricants as the price of oil plunged.

Building approvals ease on apartments

However, the good news on exports was offset by a dip in residential building approvals.

Overall, approvals were down 3.3 per cent in December, but this was led by a 9.7 per cent slide in non-house approvals, such as apartments, following a couple of months of strong gains.

The apartment sector is notoriously volatile as large developments being approved tend to skew the figures month to month.

Seasonally adjusted house approvals were flat at 9,314.

The more stable trend figures, smoothing out the monthly volatility, still paint a health picture for residential construction.

Overall, trend approvals were up 1.3 per cent for the month, with a 2.9 per cent rise in apartments and other multi-unit dwellings offsetting a 0.2 per cent decline in detached houses.

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