Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Ouch! Commodity prices jab still higher.

The RBA's very latest, impressive graph:

ABAREs' latest forecasts:

Australia will rake in a record $251 billion from commodity exports next financial year and the mining boom will roll on until at least the middle of this decade, the government's resources forecaster says.

Despite a summer plagued by natural disasters, an upbeat economic report yesterday raised official forecasts for the nation's top mining and energy exports, and said farmers would enjoy healthy income rises this year and next.

Buoyed by surging prices for wheat, cotton and sugar, farming export earnings would rise 9 per cent to $31.2 billion in 2010-11, before reaching $32.5 billion in 2011-12, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences said.

Minerals and energy exports were on track to hit $186 billion this financial year before leaping 16 per cent to $215 billion the following year as resource companies ramped up supply.

In a sign of the massive windfall for the economy, it said commodity exports would total $221 billion in the year to June, an annual increase of 29 per cent, before hitting a fresh high of $251 billion in 2011-12.

The executive director of the bureau, Philip Glyde, said he expected export earnings to stay near these record levels until 2015-16, and the strong performance would keep the dollar near parity with the US dollar for the next two years.

"More records will continue to be broken in the minerals and energy export sector," Mr Glyde said. "Continued strong demand for mineral resources, particularly from Asia, is expected to keep the Australian dollar relatively high."

Queensland floods and tropical cyclone Yasi had wiped up to $2.5 billion off coal exports and $2.3 billion off agricultural production, but this failed to hold back the longer-term growth in commodities.

"While the floods and cyclone impacts were devastating, they weren't sufficiently large to knock down the recovery of the [farm] sector from 10 years of drought," Mr Glyde said.

From next year, the bureau expects key export prices to fall gradually as extra supply comes to market.

The separately published Reserve Bank commodity price index rose a further 2.2 per cent in February after a 5.3 per cent rise in January to be up 48 per cent over the year. The index measures the prices of Australia's top 20 commodity exports in so-called "special drawing rights", a measure created by the International Monetary Fund to abstract from exchange rate movements. In Australian dollar terms the index is up 32 per cent over the year.

The Reserve left interest rates steady at its meeting yesterday. Its statement said Australia's terms of trade were at their highest level since the early 1950s with national income growing strongly.

Among households, "in contrast, there continues to be caution in spending and borrowing and a higher rate of saving out of current income".

The Reserve said the effects of natural disasters had cut output but production should recover and there will be a mild boost to the economy from rebuilding.

Retail sales remained weak in January, recording zero growth in trend terms for the fifth month in a row.

Published in today's SMH and Age

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