Weak global demand and a slowing domestic economy are dampening activity at China's ports. Photo: AP
CHINA remains Australia's biggest export market, notwithstanding sliding prices and lower demand.
New trade figures show China took 27.1 per cent of Australia's merchandise exports in the three months to September, compared with 27.7 per cent in the same period a year ago. Japan's export share is 20.9 per cent, up from 19.5 per cent last year. Export income fell for the fourth consecutive month, slipping 0.6 per cent in September to be down 10.4 per cent over the year. Minerals exports were down 22.1 per cent over the year, and coal exports down 22.3 per cent.
Commonwealth Bank senior economist John Peters said the decline suggested volumes were holding up even if prices were not.
''While the price of iron ore and coal have dropped sharply over 2012, export volumes of these two commodities have continued to trend higher as major projects come on stream in wake of the mining investment boom of recent years,'' he said. ''Overall we see bulk commodity export volumes picking up further momentum after setbacks earlier in 2012 revolving around weather-related events and industrial disputes.
The Chinese economy and the economies of other major export destinations in Asia ultimately will pick up momentum in 2013 and beyond. As investments undertaken in the mining boom come on line, further increases in volumes are likely.''
A fall in spending on imports more than offset the fall in export income to narrow Australia's monthly trade deficit to just under $1.5 billion.
''The broader picture remains weak, with the trade accounts indicating that consecutive deficits have now been recorded every month since January,'' Deutsche Bank economist Adam Boyton said.