Australia’s trade surplus hit a record $17.7 billion in June, aided by strong shipments of coal, iron ore and grain.

The monthly surplus rose from May’s $15.0 billion, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported on Thursday, far outpacing expectations of a fall to $14 billion.

Exports were up by $2.9 billion, or 5.1 per cent, while imports rose $324 million, or 0.7 per cent.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said the figure marked Australia’s 54th monthly trade surplus.

“Does anyone care? They should. The income flowing into Australia is supporting Aussie businesses at a crucial time – a time when fears of recession are being expressed globally,” he said in a note.

ANZ economists Madeline Dunk and David Plank said the strength in exports was driven by both price and volume, and the data pointed to a large contribution from net exports to second-quarter gross domestic product.

But they added the country’s surplus was probably near its peak and would start to slide.

Australia’s biggest buyer, China, is trying to limit its reliance on coal imports and produce less steel.

Mr James noted Australia’s exports to China of $170.5 billion in the 12 months to June were well down on the record of $179.5 billion set in the year to November 2021.

In contrast, Australia’s trade with India has soared, with exports up 108 per cent over the year and imports up 63.5 per cent.

“Exports to India are more important than the US and UK combined,” Mr James said.

Iron ore exports were up 5.5 per cent to $15.5 billion, with shipments rising significantly to China, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Coal exports dipped 0.6 per cent to $14.35 billion as coal prices softened from record highs.

Exports of rural goods rose 11.8 per cent on strong gains in meat and grains.

Gold exports were up 63.8 per cent following a 71 per cent increase in May, rises only partly explained by high prices for the commodity.

The ABS also noted that lithium exports in June hit a record $1.1 billion, up a staggering 1189 per cent from a year ago.

Nearly all Australian lithium is produced in WA and 94 per cent of all exports this year have been to China.

Lithium is a key component in rechargeable batteries used in the electric vehicle industry as well as in consumer devices and the storage of renewable energy.

Exports of the commodity are expected to continue rising, contributing $9.4 billion in revenue to Australia’s economy by 2023/24, the ABS said.