Australia’s exporters weather China squall, find new harbors

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    SYDNEY – Australia’s trade surplus rose to a six-month high in December as iron ore exports to China easily weathered diplomatic squalls between the two countries, while coal shipments found new buyers beyond the world’s second-largest economy.

    China’s reliance on steel-intensive infrastructure and construction to sustain economic growth means it has little choice but to keep importing Australian iron ore, even as prices for the mineral hit multi-year highs.

    Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics out on Thursday showed goods exports to China jumped 21 percent in December to a six-month high of A$13.3 billion, with iron ore up sharply by both value and volume.

    That helped Australia’s trade surplus swell to A$6.8 billion ($5.19 billion) in December, from A$5 billion the month before, as exports rose 2.8 percent and imports fell 2.4 percent.

    The surplus for the December quarter widened by 28 percent to A$17.4 billion, a timely positive for economic growth and tax revenue that is helping the country quickly recover from its first recession in three decades.

    For all of 2020, exports climbed 12 percent in a resilient result given the disruptions caused by the global pandemic.