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Trade deficit narrows on record import slump

The largest ever drop in seasonally adjusted imports helped New Zealand record its smallest quarterly trade deficit in seven years, Statistics New Zealand said today.

The seasonally adjusted trade balance was a deficit of $65 million in the March 2009 quarter, the smallest deficit recorded since June 2002.

This quarter’s figure follows five years of quarterly deficits that have generally been in excess of $1 billion.

The value of seasonally adjusted imports recorded its largest ever fall in the March 2009 quarter, down 12.8% ($1.6 billion) compared with the December 2008 quarter.

This fall was led by a $1.3 billion decrease in intermediate goods, as falling crude oil prices coincided with a drop in the quantity of oil imported.

The value of seasonally adjusted exports fell 4% ($449 million) in the March 2009 quarter.

A price-led fall in milk powder, butter and cheese exports, and falls in crude oil drove this decrease.

Aluminium and aluminium articles decreased in both quantity and price.

The monthly value of merchandise exports exceeded $4 billion for the first time in March 2009, up 17.7% on March 2008, boosted by strong increases in meat and edible offal, and the export of large aircraft.

The actual value of merchandise imports also rose in the March 2009 month, up 6.9% due to increased imports of mechanical and electrical machinery and equipment.

The trade balance for the March month was a surplus of $324 million.