28 Feb 2012

Dampening of trade surpluses predicted

7:30 am on 28 February 2012

Global economic uncertainty and the high New Zealand dollar are likely to keep a lid on New Zealand's trade surpluses this year, and economist says.

Statistics New Zealand figures show a seasonally-adjusted trade deficit of $103 million in January compared with a surplus of $296 million in December.

Exports eased back slightly, but remained reasonably high thanks to strong dairy exports.

Imports rose nearly 10%, largely due to Air New Zealand bringing in a new plane, as well as a surge in crude oil imports.

Annually the trade surplus shrank to $646 million from $853 million.

ANZ senior economist Mark Smith says the rising New Zealand dollar is likely to have held down import and export values and it could result in a string of lower annual trade surpluses this year.

He says the high dollar is unlikely to worry the Reserve Bank at this stage.

Mr Smith says the central bank is likely keep the Official Cash Rate on hold for a considerable period.

He says the figures provide some evidence that the weakness in Europe is affecting export returns but exports to China appear to be holding up quite well.