RBA notes significance of China

RESERVE Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens has commented on Australia’s resilience during the downturn and the major role played by coal and iron ore exports to China.

Blair Price

Using its own analysis and statistics provided by CEIC Data and Thomson Reuters, the RBA put Australia’s export growth during the first quarter at 2.7%, while US exports declined 8.1%, Japan’s exports plunged 26%, China’s exports dived 11.4% and South Korea’s exports dropped 4.2%.

Stevens noted that increased demand from China, which traditionally imports very little coal, has partially offset other Australian export falls.

“Indeed, in the past year, China’s share of Australia’s merchandise exports has risen sharply, and is approaching that of Japan,” he said.

“Part of the increased demand from China can be explained by the construction-intensive activity taking place there, and part by reduced Chinese production of iron ore and coal, as the fall in prices has seen some of the high-cost mines in China being closed.

“For both iron ore and coal, Australian companies are among the lowest-cost producers and so gain when higher-cost firms exit the scene.

“Factors such as this have kept Australian exports doing relatively well so far, and would seem to offer significant long-term opportunities, including for this region.”

Despite large falls in coal and iron ore contract prices this year, Stevens said the contract prices would have seemed extraordinary five or six years ago.

“As the outlook for resources demand becomes clearer, and the uncertainty in financial markets continues to lift, it would not be surprising if plans for new mining projects that are being deferred at present were re-activated at some point, though this, even if it occurred, would presumably take some time to flow through into actual spending.”