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GDP Up 0.6 Percent

GDP Up 0.6 Percent

Economic activity increased 0.6 percent in the March 2003 quarter, following increases of 0.8 and 0.9 percent in the December and September 2002 quarters respectively, according to Statistics New Zealand. For the year ended March 2003, the economy grew by 4.3 percent.

The external sector was the key contributor to this quarter's growth, with exports rising 1.6 percent and imports declining 0.7 percent. Meat export volumes, up 12.1 percent, were at record levels. Dairy exports fell 4.0 percent in this quarter but remain at high levels, up 19.8 percent for the year ended March 2003. Imports of goods increased 0.3 percent this quarter while imports of services declined 2.9 percent.

Internal demand was flat this quarter, down 0.2 percent, although it remains buoyant for the March 2003 year, up 4.5 percent. There was a further lift in household expenditure this quarter, up 0.5 percent. Purchases of used vehicles were up, as was spending on food and beverages and domestic travel. Offsetting these was lower spending by New Zealanders travelling overseas as international travel conditions became more uncertain. Investment in new housing increased for the fourth consecutive quarter, up 4.2 percent and is up 23.3 percent for the March year. Business investment was flat this quarter but recorded a 3.7 percent increase for the March year. There was a slight run-down in inventory levels this quarter.

The most significant contribution to growth occurred in the service industries, which rose 0.9 percent and are now 3.7 percent higher on an annual basis. Within this group, finance, insurance and business services were the major contributors while transport and communication activity increased by 1.3 percent.

Manufacturing activity increased 2.0 percent this quarter, with the lift in food, beverage and tobacco manufacturing offsetting the decline in petroleum, chemical, plastic and rubber products manufacturing. With a drier-than-average summer over much of the country, agriculture activity decreased 0.8 percent this quarter. Dairy production tailed off earlier than normal and livestock production declined as some farmers quit stock earlier than usual. This was reflected in increased meat slaughtering activity recorded in manufacturing.

The expenditure-based measure of GDP, released concurrently with the production-based measure, recorded a 0.8 percent increase for the March 2003 quarter when compared with the December 2002 quarter.

Brian Pink Government Statistician END

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