Australia’s recent trade deficits have been pushed further into the red by the new inclusion of small purchases by consumers of goods made overseas.
The total value of imports below $1,000 ordered directly from overseas vendors in the 2012/13 financial year was $7.61 billion.
The ABS estimates that between 88 per cent and 95 per cent of that was consumer goods.
The ABS has also revised figures going back to 1998, and JP Morgan economist Ben Jarman said it shows domestic spending is leaking overseas more than previously thought.
“This is an attempt to get more of a handle on the increasing prevalence of online consumer spending with offshore retailers,” he said.
“The revisions get smaller as we move back through history, but were worth over $600 million in July alone, taking the balance for that month down.”
For the record, Australia’s total trade balance remained in the red in August, with a deficit of $815 million, official figures show, which was worse than the $450 million deficit the market was expecting.
Still, the August figure was a little bit better than the July deficit of $1.375 billion, which was revised from the original deficit estimate of $765 million.
Mr Jarman said the improved trade balance came via a surge in iron ore exports.
RBC fixed income and currency strategist Michael Turner said he expects Australia’s trade balance to improve as more mining and resource projects go into production and export shipments start moving.
“The ABS estimate of total imports includes the value of goods falling under the low value threshold,” he said.
“Beyond these distractions, the trade data were reasonably positive.
“Exports were up three per cent, led by iron ore and gold, while the one per cent rise in total imports was driven largely by broad rises in consumption goods – which ties in well with the slightly better environment for retail reported for August.”