27 Sep 2011

Trade figures could have peaked - economist

7:13 am on 27 September 2011

Goldman Sachs economist Philip Borkin says that while it's still too early to tell if turmoil on global markets is denting appetite for New Zealand's exports, the signs are that things could change.

New Zealand recorded its first monthly trade deficit in eight months in August, as a seasonally-adjusted 4% fall in exports offset a 3.1% rise in imports.

The monthly trade deficit of $641 million is the first since December, and the largest shortfall since August 2009.

Mr Borkin points out that the monthly figures can be volatile and it should be borne in mind that the current annual trade surplus is running at close to a 17-year high.

He says New Zealand has also made encouraging progress in improving some of its external vulnerabilities. But he says the question is, can the improvements be expected to continue

He cites as concerns the moderation of commodity prices, the weakness in the global economy potentially affecting demand for exports and the relative high level of the New Zealand dollars.

Mr Borkin says the Reserve Bank will be closely watching the trade data, as well as commodity prices and banking strains as it monitors the economy in the near future.

On an annual basis, the surplus for the year to August was $1.1 billion, compared with $1.3 billion in the year before.