SYDNEY, May 7 (Xinhua) -- Australia's trade surplus ballooned to a record 6.8 billion U.S. dollars in seasonally adjusted terms in March, largely on the back of strong Chinese demand for iron ore.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed on Thursday that the record number was also helped by a slump in imports due to global supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19.
The figure vastly exceeded analyst predictions and is a steep lift from the downwardly revised 2.5 billion U.S. dollar surplus in February.
"In the current situation with the various factors that have hit global trade in recent weeks and months at times you have to expect the unexpected and today's trade balance was indeed unexpected," Robert Rennie, head of financial market strategy at Westpac Bank, told Xinhua.
Shipments of iron ore surged by around one third, with China by far the biggest customer, while gold exports nearly tripled as investors sought the safety of the precious metal.
"Given that we were very much in the fog of the global COVID-19 outbreak demand for gold was extremely strong then, and we also did see the Aussie dollar dropping sharply too," Rennie said.
The dramatic shift in iron ore exports could partially be attributed to disruptions by Cyclone Damien which hit the Pilbara mining region of Western Australia in February, as well as the Chinese economy returning from lockdowns, according to Rennie.
"We would have been looking at somewhere between five and eight days of lost exports as a result of tropical Cyclone Damien that came through the Pilbara," Rennie said.
Rennie said that he would expect to see the strength of Chinese demand for iron ore continuing into the April figures as well.
On the Australian share market, the country's largest iron ore producers, BHP and Fortescue, both finished the day over 1.5 percent higher, leading a standout jump in the materials sector.