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Balance of Payments still volatile

18 June 1999

Balance of Payments - March 1999 quarter

The March 1999 quarter current account deficit was $894 million, said Government Statistician Len Cook.

The latest trend estimate of the current account balance deteriorated slightly in the March 1999 quarter but has continued to fluctuate around the $1,500 million deficit level since the March 1997 quarter. The current account balance trend estimate has not recovered from the long-term deterioration evident since the June 1993 quarter.

In seasonally adjusted terms the current account deficit showed a $523 million deterioration between the December 1998 and March 1999 quarters. The deterioration is the result of a $281 million deterioration in the seasonally adjusted invisibles deficit and a $242 million deterioration in the seasonally adjusted merchandise trade surplus.

A $116 million fall in the returns New Zealand enterprises receive on their overseas investments and a $153 million decrease in seasonally adjusted exports between the December 1998 and March 1999 quarters reflects difficult conditions New Zealand enterprises are facing overseas. Low world commodity prices, and changes in New Zealand's exchange rates compared with our major trading partners, have adversely affected returns.

A $112 million increase in returns to overseas investors on their New Zealand investments, an $89 million rise in seasonally adjusted imports and a $192 million improvement in seasonally adjusted travel receipts between the December 1998 and the March 1999 quarters suggests that stronger domestic activity is driving these components.

The March 1999 year ended current account deficit was $6,374 million. This compares with a deficit of $5,970 million in the December 1998 year and a deficit of $6,488 million in the March 1998 year.

Len Cook

GOVERNMENT STATISTICIAN

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