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Fluctuating Oil Imports Cause April Deficit

Overseas Merchandise Trade (Imports): April 2004

27 May 2004

The provisional value of merchandise imports for April 2004 is $2,844 million, 13.0 percent higher than for April 2003, according to Statistics New Zealand. The main contributors to this month's higher value of imports, when compared with April 2003, were crude oil and petroleum oils.

The estimated value of merchandise exports for April 2004 is $2,710 million, resulting in an estimated trade deficit of $134 million or 4.9 percent of exports. This is the largest April trade deficit as a percentage of exports since April 1982, when 21.3 percent was recorded.

A trade surplus is usual for an April month. During the past 20 years, there have been only four April months where deficits have been recorded. The quantities of crude oil and partly refined petroleum oils were both higher this month, when compared with April 2003. Crude oil and petroleum oils are imported at irregular intervals and usually consist of large shipments.

This can cause fluctuations in the value of imports from month to month. The average monthly value of crude oil and petroleum oils imported for the year ended March 2004 was $225 million, $151 million lower than for April 2004. If this average monthly value for crude oil and petroleum oils imports was recorded for April 2004, the monthly trade balance would be a surplus.

Other commodities with higher import values this month, when compared with April 2003, include: wind-powered generator sets and mobile phones; and mechanical machinery and equipment. These higher values of imports were partly offset by a lower value of imported ships and boats.

The underlying trend for the value of merchandise imports has been increasing for eight consecutive months, and is up 7.0 percent since August 2003. The New Zealand dollar, as measured by the trade weighted index for April 2004, is 3.2 percent higher than in August 2003, despite depreciating in March and April.

A high exchange rate generally has a downward influence on import prices and may lead to an increase in the quantity of items imported. For the year ended April 2004, the provisional value of merchandise imports is $32,722 million, up $806 million or 2.5 percent, when compared with the year ended April 2003.

The estimated annual value of merchandise exports is $28,830 million, resulting in an estimated annual trade deficit of $3,891 million, or 13.5 percent of exports. Detailed exports information for April 2004 will be released on 8 June 2004. Brian Pink Government Statistician


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