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NZ posts trade surplus in February as car imports fall to 5-year low

Monday 26th March 2018

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New Zealand posted a trade surplus in February as imports and exports both increased, with imports at a high for the month even as car imports fell, Statistics New Zealand said.

Goods exports jumped 11 percent to $4.46 billion compared with February last year, while imports rose 4.6 percent to $4.24 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $217 million for the month, compared to a $42 million deficit in February last year.

The latest data reverses January's trade deficit of $655 million, which was itself a big swing from December when the country recorded a trade surplus of $614 million, the largest ever for a December month.

There was a 33 percent decline in the value of car imports to $257 million in February, a five-year low, due to a delay unloading four vehicle carriers holding about 8,000 cars after stink bugs were found on the vessels.

“The goods on these vehicle carriers would normally have been included in February’s import statistics, but will now be included in the statistics of the month when the respective shipments are unloaded,"  international statistics manager Tehseen Islam said.

Imports still increased, with electrical machinery and equipment imports up 12.5 percent to $328 million and mechanical machinery and equipment imports up 10.4 percent to $611 million, making the latter the largest import commodity group for the month. Imports of petroleum and products dropped 9.3 percent to $427 million.

Meanwhile, milk powder, butter, and cheese remained the country's largest commodity export, with that category up 5.3 percent to $1.095 billion. Gains in dairy product exports were more moderate than earlier in the season, due to a fall in export prices for milk powder in the month, Stats NZ said. The unit price of butter exports has fallen 14 percent from the recent peak in November 2017 but was 30 percent higher than in February 2017.

Meat and edible offal exports increased 12.5 percent to $768 million and log and wood exports jumped 19.3 percent to $382 million. Stats NZ said sheep meat exports rose 21 percent to $447 million in the month due to higher prices for lamb and mutton, while forestry products gained on a rise in untreated logs to China. 


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