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Plunging oil, gold imports trim India's trade deficit

A forklift driver prepares to stack a container at a port in Kolkata January 10, 2014. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A plunge in oil and gold imports has trimmed India’s trade deficit to its lowest level in more than five years, bolstering the outlook for its balance of payments.

The trade shortfall narrowed for the fourth straight month in April to $4.84 billion, its lowest level since March 2011, from $5.07 billion in the previous month, government data showed on Friday.

Tumbling global crude prices drove down the oil import bill by 24 percent from a year earlier to $5.66 billion last month.

Subdued gold demand, due to a jewellers’ strike and a sharp rise in prices, led to a 60 percent annual fall. Imports of the yellow metal totalled $1.2 billion, sharply down from $3.1 billion in the same month a year ago.

Overall, India’s imports shrank by an annual 23.10 percent to $25.41 billion.

India’s balance of payments swung to a surplus in the October-December quarter.

Exports, meanwhile, posted their 17th straight fall, contracting by an annual 6.74 percent to $20.57 billion.

Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Gareth Jones