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Australia’s July 2023 trade report: gold shipments drop, car imports surge, commodity weakness

A sharp decline in shipments of non-monetary gold and a surge in the value of car and truck imports, coupled with weaker demand and prices for some key commodities, marked a lackluster start to Australia’s financial year 2023-24 in July.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported on Thursday that the seasonally adjusted trade surplus for July fell by $215 million to $8.039 billion.

This decrease of $229 billion from June’s significantly revised surplus of $10.425 billion (originally estimated at $11.321 billion for June) resulted from a 2.0% decrease in exports to nearly $54 billion and a 2.5% increase in imports to $45.88 billion.

The most significant decline in exports was a 32% or $949 million drop in the value of non-monetary gold exports to $2.022 billion in August.

While this more than offset a $913 rise in the value of rural exports, it is a notoriously volatile commodity that fluctuates noticeably each month.

The value of coal exports, especially premium coking coal, decreased by $268 million in the month due to weak quantities and prices. Additionally, the value of other mineral fuels, mostly LNG, fell by $227 million over the month, while the value of iron ore and other mineral exports dropped by $106 million.

Among imports, the most notable increase was in the value of non-industrial transport equipment, primarily motor vehicles (both conventionally powered and EVs), which surged by $666 million in July.

The value of industrial transport equipment, including trucks, increased by $228 million, bringing the total for the month for the two categories to $894 million. The main driving factor was imports to fulfill existing orders as supply chain problems eased both domestically and among offshore manufacturers.

There was also a $223 million rise in the value of imports of fuels and lubricants, mainly petrol and oil.

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