Australia posted a much bigger current account deficit in the first three months of 2012, mainly due to a big rise in mining equipment imports.

Australia's seasonally adjusted current account deficit widened to $14.892 billion in the March quarter, from a deficit of $9.639 billion in the December quarter, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported on Tuesday.

The median market forecast was for a deficit of $14.650 billion in the quarter.

JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy said capital goods imports the big swing factor in the current account figures.

"It was a lot of mining equipment that we don't produce domestically, so it really does reinforce the multi-speed nature of the economy where we're importing mining related equipment," Mr Kennedy said.

"The income side of the account was more or less in line with expectations.

"You've got general weakness on the export side due to reduced demand from major trading partners, i.e. China."

CommSec chief economist Craig James said the balance of payments data was a bit better than expected.

"Overall, I don't think it's going to greatly change our expectations for economic growth in the March quarter," he said.

"That will be around half of one per cent.

"Certainly the economy is not shooting the lights out at present, but it's not going backwards in a big way."

However, the current instability in Europe, and the focus on global debt meant that keeping the deficit down was a priority.

"The data shows you that there's no room for complacency," Mr James said.

"We still have a significant current account deficit, and the world at the moment is focused on debt, and keeping those imbalances down.

"Certainly anything the government can do to reduce its deficit will be good from a big-picture point of view."

The West Australian

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