28 Feb 2013

NZ trade deficit wider

7:17 am on 28 February 2013

The trade deficit has widened due to a fall in dairy exports and lower oil sales.

Official figures show a deficit of $305 million in January, compared with a $161 million shortfall for the same month a year ago.

Exports fell 10% to $3.3 billion, led by milk powder, butter and cheese. Imports fell 6% to $3.7 billion.

Westpac senior economist Michael Gordon said the deficit was worse than expected, due to a combination of factors.

Mr Gordon said there were softer exports for the month with low volumes for oil and dairy products and there was a fairly sharp bounce in imports as well.

But Mr Gordon said imports of capital equipment grew which is a good sign as it suggests businesses are prepared to invest.

And he said there's more to come through in export earnings as dairy volumes are likely to be up about 1% on last season which should help the outlook going into the first half of this year at the least.

Mr Gordon said beyond that it will be a matter of what happens when demand in the economy recovers.

He said there will be a lot of imported materials needed for rebuilding Christchurch and that's likely to see persistant trade deficits through 2014.

On an annual basis, the deficit widened to $1.3 billion.