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Australian exports decrease in May

AUSTRALIAN exports sank for the second month in a row in May as falling commodity prices and the global downturn battered an economy showing mixed signs of weathering the worst of the crisis.

Exports fell 5 percent, pushing the country into a trade deficit of A$556 million (US$445 million) in May after a A$282 million shortfall in April, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data released on Thursday. May imports fell 4 percent, reflecting a weak business climate.

Economists had expected a deficit of around A$125 million for May.

Big reductions in coal prices Australian miners negotiated with Japanese buyers came into effect in the period, and underscored a 15 percent fall in the value of coal exports in May, the data showed.

Exports to Japan fell 13 percent in May, but exports to China grew 9 percent.

Before April, Australia recorded eight consecutive months of trade surpluses.

Australia escaped falling into recession when it reported 0.4 percent growth in the first quarter of 2009 compared to a year earlier, becoming one of the few major advanced economies to avoid a recession amid the global slump. Two consecutive quarters of contraction is generally considered a recession in Australia.

Recent news has been gloomier, including statistics bureau data released this week showing building approvals fell 12.5 percent to 9,953 units in May over April.


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