Trade deficit widens in January: Midday roundup

Australia’s trade deficit widened during January, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The numbers show the deficit widened 54% to a seasonally adjusted $1.057 billion.

Exports fell by a seasonally adjusted 1% to $25.023 billion, the figures show.

Construction industry claws back in latest survey

The Australian construction industry has posted its strongest result in three years, according to the latest Australian Industry Group-Housing Industry Association performance of construction index.

The index rose by 9.4 points or to an index level of 45.6. Although it still remains below the 50-point level separating expansion from contraction, it is the highest figure seen in some time.

In a statement, HIA senior economist Shane Garrett said the result was evidence of a strong rebound.

“The strong rebound in house building activity captured in the figures adds evidence to the prospect of a modest recovery in this area,” he said.

“The nature of the housing recovery is, nonetheless, tentative and the overall weakness of construction activity merits further intervention from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) in the form of interest rate reductions.”

Shares open to new 54-month high

The Australian sharemarket has opened to a 54-month high this morning, following the lead from the United States where the Dow Jones reached an all-time high.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 0.31% to 5,132.9 at 11.50 AEST, while in the United States the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 42.5 points or 0.3% to 14,296.2.

Federal Reserve warns US economy still slow

The US Federal Reserve has warned in its latest Beige Book economic activity is still moving at a slower pace.

“Economic activity generally expanded at a modest to moderate pace,” the Fed said in the Beige Book, which reports on activity for the 12 federal districts of the Federal Reserve.

“Most districts reported expansion in consumer spending, although retail sales slowed in several districts,” the report said.

“Many district contacts commented on the expired payroll tax holiday and the Affordable Care Act as having restrained sales growth.”



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