23 Sep 2011

Growth slips but some positives seen

10:06 am on 23 September 2011

Economists say the underlying strength of the economy is surprisingly robust given the devastation wrought by February's earthquake in Christchurch - but the current global turmoil may yet derail activity.

Official figures show gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of the health of the economy, grew by a modest 0.1% in the three months to June, compared with a revised 0.9% in the previous quarter.

On the spending side, household consumption rose 0.3%, while higher dairy prices boosted agricultural production, offseting another fall in construction activity.

While the economy all but stalled in the June quarter, the BNZ's head of research, Stephen Toplis, says GDP grew 1.5% for the year to June.

The clear message of the new figures, Mr Toplis says, "is that the strength in our primary production sector - and, coupled with that, the strength in the terms of trade - are actually leaving New Zealand in a relatively good position on a global stage which is looking increasingly shaky."

Having said that, he says, the retail sector and private consumption have "held up okay" during the quarter - there have been no major negatives. And with the Christchurch rebuild he assumes there'll be a substantial reversal of building activity over the next 24 months.

Apart from that, Mr Toplis says farmers are likely to continuing reaping the benefits of reasonably strong commodity prices.