Australia's trade surplus dropped 4.4 per cent to $1.93 billion in November, with a near billion-dollar increase in combined gold, fuel and metal ore exports offset by higher import costs, and an expected drop in coal exports.
The nation's balance on goods and services decreased $88 million in November, down from October's revised $2.01 billion, according to seasonally adjusted data released on Tuesday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Analysts, working on the basis of the $2.32 billion surplus initially recorded for October by the ABS, had expected the trade balance to drop to $2 billion.
The Australian dollar dipped on the release of the data before fluctuating and falling further over the next 90 minutes, siting at 71.34 US cents at 1300 AEDT.
Westpac economist Andrew Hanlan said the main surprise - on both the import and export side - was the resilience of fuel despite the sharp fall in global energy prices.
November fuel exports were two per cent, or $90 million, to $5.41 billion, while fuel and lubricant imports dropped $145 million, or four per cent.
Meanwhile, NAB economist Kaixin Owyong said a 2.3 per cent rise in consumption imports growth was likely driven by a seven per cent monthly increase motor vehicle imports.
"This is likely a positive sign for discretionary household spending perhaps refuting the suggestion that recent car sales data is pointing to softer demand," she said.
Coal exports dropped as expected after surging in October, down $543 million for November.
Non-monetary gold exports surged 60 per cent, or $681 million, to $1.82 billion, though gold imports also increased by $30 million, or nine per cent.
Export of metal ores and minerals rose four per cent, or $317 million, to $8.34 billion.
Rural exports fell, though meat exports rose two per cent, or $25 million.
There was a $368 million, or 78 per cent, increase in the cost of civil aircraft imports.