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Slowdown in growth a concern for Australian exporters

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Growth in China and India is slowing to below trend, the latest OECD composite leading indicators have shown. The Export, Finance & Insurance Corporation’s (EFIC) latest World Risk Developments newsletter believes this is of concern for Australian exporters, with the two countries being key drivers of world growth and Australian exports in recent years. China and India buy nearly a third of Australia’s total exports between them, being Australia’s number one and number four export markets respectively. In China, growth in fixed asset investment, retail sales, and industrial production have all eased in recent months. Chinese fixed asset investment grew by 20 percent year-on-year in May, the slowest rate since 2001, while Indian GDP growth saw a nine-year low, growing just 5.3 percent year-on-year in the March quarter. The composite leading indicators (CLI), designed to anticipate turning points in economic activity, have also found that economic activity in Japan and the United States is improving. EFIC’s newsletter also shows the World Bank’s latest forecasts, which predict prices for most commodities falling over the next five years but remaining well above historical averages. This fall in prices has been caused by the period of high prices from 2003-2011, which led to investment in new capacity and rising supply. However, one area that remains unaffected is aluminium, with prices expected to rise as current prices are at or below marginal costs for many producers. The main downside risk to these forecasts, according to the Bank, is the further weakening of world economic conditions. Most importantly, a sharper downturn than expected in China would have a particularly large impact, with China consuming over 40 percent of metal production, almost 50 percent of coal production, and approximately 60 percent of the iron ore traded in the seaborne market.

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