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NZ posts first trade deficit for March month in 10 years as fuel imports surge

Friday 27th April 2018

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New Zealand posted its first trade deficit for a March month in a decade as a jump in fuel imports outweighed higher exports of butter and logs.


Goods imports rose 14 percent to $4.94 billion in March compared with the same month a year earlier, mainly driven by imports of crude oil, petrol and diesel, aircraft, computers, and tractors, Statistics New Zealand said. Petroleum and products surged $297 million, or 88 percent, to $634 million in March 2018, the largest increase since a $453 million rise in December 2013. Crude oil rose $198 million, while petrol and diesel rose $94 million. Stats NZ noted that monthly imports of petroleum and products can be volatile. 


Meanwhile March exports increased 5.8 percent to $4.85 billion, led by increases in butter and untreated logs. The total value of butter exports rose $95 million, or 76 percent, to $221 million, with quantity up 47 percent compared with the same month of the previous year. Butter exports to Iran rose $36 million, and to China rose $23 million. Exports of forestry products rose $70 million, or 18 percent, to $460 million, led by a rise in untreated logs to China, up $54 million.


"Imports rose much more than exports, leading to a March month trade deficit of $86 million (1.8 percent of exports)," Stats NZ said. "This is the first deficit for a March month since 2008."


The annual trade deficit for the year ended March was $3.42 billion, compared with a $3.71 billion shortfall in the year to March 2017. Annual goods imports were valued at $58.07 billion, ahead of the $52.40 billion a year earlier, while annual exports increased to $54.65 billion from $48.69 billion.



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