Investors turning to safe-haven bullion and soaring demand for scrap metal helped push Australian export prices higher during a COVID-affected March quarter, but this was offset by softer petrol demand amid widespread lockdowns.
The nation’s export price index rose by 2.7 per cent for the three months to March 31, swinging from a 5.2 per cent decline in December when increased global supply of coal, metalliferous ores and metal scrap had compounded subdued demand from China.
Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday showed the main contributors to the quarterly export price uptick was gold – with yellow metal prices up 11.4 per cent.
The ABS attributed this to increased demand for the safe-haven commodity as a result of global economic uncertainty.
The price of gold shipments have now risen 31.9 per cent through the year to March.
Meanwhile, prices on metalliferous ores and metal scrap exports rose 2.3 per cent for the quarter due to constrained global supply.
The extended Chinese New Year COVID shutdown and wide-reaching transport restrictions prompted a stronger reliance on imported iron ore to the mainly coastal-based steel mills.
Offsetting this was a 7.8 per cent drop in petrol export prices due to decreased global demand as countries began to shut down and put major transport restrictions in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Petrol was also a major contributor to the quarterly import price index falling 1.0 per cent.
Petroleum, petroleum products and related materials were down by 11.1 per cent, while inorganic chemicals imports were down 11.8 per cent, driven by a fall in demand for sodium hydroxide, an input into a number of manufacturing processes.
Gold import prices were higher, up 11.2 per cent for the quarter and 31.7 per cent for the 12 months to March.
Road vehicle import prices fell 0.6 per cent due to a continuing decrease in global demand.