17 Jun 2013

Drought expected to have positive effect in first quarter

6:58 am on 17 June 2013

Latest figures on the health of the economy are expected to show the drought had a positive effect in the first quarter of the year.

Official gross domestic product figures for the three months to March to be released on Thursday are expected to show economic activity increased by 0.7%.

This follows a 1.5% increase in the December quarter, the strongest quarterly rise in three years.

ASB economist Christina Leung said the key drivers for growth in the first quarter are the rebuilding of Canterbury and the effects of the drought.

She said meat processing surged over the first quarter of 2013 because farmers brought forward slaughter of animals as conditions became increasingly dry - but that is expected to unwind over the rest of the year.

Ms Leung said construction activity surged in the first quarter and it was mainly concentrated in Canterbury, but there were also signs of increased residential construction in Auckland which is likely to be a result of stronger prices causing increased demand.

The negative effects of the drought are expected to flow through to the June quarter GDP.

However robust manufacturing and construction activity should help offset that.

On Friday the Bank of New Zealand-Business New Zealand's seasonally adjusted performance of manufacturing index rose four points between April and May, to 59.2, a nine year high.

BNZ economist Doug Steel said the figure will make a difference to economic growth forecasts.

He said it lifts the outlook for gross domestic product growth in the second and third quarters of the year and puts upward pressure on economic growth forecasts in 2013 more generally.

Mr Steel said growth of more than 3% for 2013 could be possible.