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Import Volumes Fall

Overseas Trade Indexes: March 2000 (Provisional)

The latest Overseas Trade Indexes released today by Statistics New Zealand show that seasonally adjusted total merchandise import volumes fell in the March 2000 quarter, following two quarters of significant increases.

However those quarters included imports of aircraft, the frigate HMNZS Te Mana and an increase in imports in anticipation of possible Y2K disruptions. Seasonally adjusted volumes fell 17.5 per cent in the March quarter, but if the frigate and aircraft were removed Statistics New Zealand estimate the fall would have been 4 per cent. Despite the fall, the volume index for the latest quarter is still at a higher level than that recorded a year ago in the March 1999 quarter.

Seasonally adjusted total merchandise export volumes rose 2.8 per cent this quarter. This index has been volatile over the last year, fluctuating from quarter to quarter. Most of the seasonally adjusted export volume indexes rose, with the largest increases in the wool and non-food manufactured goods indexes.

The terms of trade have continued to fall in the March 2000 quarter as shown in figures released by Statistics New Zealand today. The merchandise terms of trade index fell by 2.7 per cent and the services terms of trade index fell by 1.0 per cent. Although both import and export prices have risen this quarter, import prices are increasing at a faster rate than export prices.

The merchandise terms of trade index is now at its lowest level since the September 1987 quarter. A fall in the terms of trade means that less imports can be funded by a fixed quantity of exports.

The lower New Zealand dollar had a major impact on the export and import price indexes which all showed significant increases. Merchandise import prices rose for the second consecutive quarter after having been relatively flat since the September 1998 quarter. Merchandise import prices continue to be influenced by increasing crude oil prices.

Merchandise export price indexes increased for the fourth consecutive quarter reflecting continued higher prices for certain basic commodities such as forestry, dairy products, fish and non-food manufactured goods.

Export and import prices for the services indexes increased strongly this quarter mostly due to the exchange rate effect. The services exports index rose by 3.5 per cent and the services imports index rose by 4.5 per cent.

Ian Ewing

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