New Zealand had its best January trade surplus as a percentage of exports in two decades, with exports just slightly down from a year earlier, while imports fell much further.
The figures published by Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) today showed a trade surplus of $269 million in January. That amounted to 8.5 percent of exports, the highest January trade surplus as a percentage of exports since 1989.
It compared to an average January deficit of 20.1 percent of exports for the previous five years.
Exports were down just 0.6 percent last month to $3.2 billion, while imports fell 11.9 percent to $2.9b.
SNZ said the trend indicated total merchandise exports appeared to have been rising in recent months, although more data was needed to confirm the direction.
Exports to Asia rose by $263m or 24 percent in January, compared to a year earlier, while exports to the US were down $213m or 48.3 percent and those to Europe fell $91m or 19.2 percent.
Crude oil exports, which can be irregular, showed the largest increase last month from January 2009, rising $148m or 267 percent. Exports of crude oil from the Kupe oilfield started last month.
Milk powder, butter and cheese recorded the second largest rise, lifting $103m or 12.1 percent. That was led by unsweetened whole milk powder, which was up $98m or 36.6 percent due to a 54 percent rise in the quantity exported, SNZ said.
Exports of logs, wood and wood articles rose $39m or 29.6 percent, with the quantity of rough pinus radiata logs exported in January more than double that exported a year earlier.
Casein and caseinates recorded the largest fall in exports last month, dropping $88m or 60.9 percent.
Among imports, mechanical machinery and equipment recorded a fall of $102m or 22.7 percent, with parts for engines and motors, and straddle carrier cranes being notable contributors to the decline, SNZ said.
Electrical machinery and equipment imports fell $79m or 27.6 percent, led by falls in parts for generators and generating sets, and in wind-powered electric generating sets.
Crude oil imports rose $106m, with partly refined petrol imports up $18m. Passenger car imports rose $67m or 59.7 percent compared to January 2009, when the lowest January value since 1998 was recorded.
SNZ said the trend for total imports reached a turning point in September, and had risen 4.4 percent since then, but was still 22.1 percent lower than its peak in August 2008.
The annual trade deficit for the year to January was $178m, just 0.4 percent of exports, the smallest annual deficit recorded as a percentage of exports since the last annual trade surplus was recorded in July 2002.