Import Export Trade Gap expands to $2.5 billion

Submitted by Share Trading on 10 January, 2006 - 18:17

A surge in imports took Australia's trade gap with the rest of the world to $2.5 billion in November. But much of the blame for the ballooning deficit has been placed on a glitch with a new Customs computer program which created a backlog of imports. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Tuesday showed the trade deficit for November grew $1.1 billion to $2.47 billion, the 44th consecutive monthly trade deficit. The value of exports inched up one per cent to $15.12 billion, while imports jumped seven per cent to $17.59 billion. The deficit was much higher than market expectations, with economists forecasting a trade gap of up to $1.8 billion.

National Australia Bank senior markets economist David de Garis said it would be difficult to read anything meaningful into the data. "There's not a lot we can tell as far as the state of the economy is concerned at this stage," he said. "Certainly a seven per cent rise in imports is a very, very large rise in one month by anyone's imagination and I think it's hard to believe that there's anything like that in the economy in terms of demand for imports."

In October, key Australian ports were almost choked to a standstill with uncleared imports when the new Customs computer system was rolled out and subsequently failed. A huge backlog of merchandise was later cleared. Customs accepted the blame for problems with import processing system. "We accept that statement. We're not putting out a response. We're happy with it," a Customs spokesman said.