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Merchandise Trade Balance (December 2001)

Data Flash (New Zealand)

Merchandise Trade Balance (December 2001)

A provisional merchandise trade surplus of $26m was recorded for the December month, significantly better than average market expectations (deficit of $110m).

The trade surplus for the calendar year 2001 was $995m, compared with a deficit of $1,535m in 2000.

Export values in December were marginally weaker than a year earlier, with a decline in export prices (NZD denominated) of around 5% only partly offset by stronger volumes. A breakdown of the export data will be released on 13 February.

The various import components continued recent trends. Seasonally adjusted data for the December quarter showed a marginal decline in consumer goods imports, a significant increase in imported vehicles, stronger imports of plant and machinery, but an offsetting decline in intermediate import values (mainly crude oil driven).

Overall, the December trade data is consistent with our forecast of a positive net export contribution to Q4 GDP growth. We estimate that GDP increased by around 1% qoq.

Today's data also suggests that the current account deficit has fallen further to below 3% of GDP late last year. We expect further adverse terms and trade influences to cause the deficit to gradually rise again to 3.8% over the course of this year.

Ulf Schoefisch, Chief Economist, New Zealand

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