New Zealand recorded a trade deficit in January, reflecting a larger-than-expected decline in exports led by dairy products, while imports rose.
The deficit was $305 million last month, for an annual trade gap of $1.3 billion, according to Statistics New Zealand. That compares to the forecast in a Reuters survey of a $100 million surplus.
Exports fell to $3.35 billion from $4.07 billion a month earlier and compared to $3.65 billion in the Reuters survey. Imports rose to $3.65 billion from $3.58 billion. The seasonally adjusted deficit in January was $287 million.
"The deterioration in the January trade balance was in part payback for its surprising bounce in the previous month," Michael Gordon, economist at Westpac Banking Corp, says. "We still expect a modest pick-up in export earnings over this year, as the impact of higher world dairy prices has yet to flow through."
Australia remained the biggest destination for New Zealand goods, though the value of shipments fell about 13 percent to $635 million in January from the same month last year, while in the 12 months they fell 9.8 percent to $9.8 billion.
China remained in second place, with exports rising 3.1 percent to $647 million in the month and jumping 14 percent to $6.88 billion in the year.
Exports to the US fell 1 percent to $310 million in January and rose 4.7 percent to $4.2 billion in the 12-month period. Shipments to Japan tumbled 19 percent to $178 million in the month and fell 8.6 percent to $3.2 billion in the year.
Exports of milk powder, butter and cheese fell 16 percent to $1.1 billion in January from the same month of 2012 and fell 7.7 percent to $11.2 billion in the 12 months ended January 31. Meat exports rose 9.6 percent to $447 million for a 4.8 percent annual decline top $5.2 billion.
Logs and wood exports were up 6.4 percent to $187 million for an annual decline of 0.8 percent to $3.2 billion, while crude oil shipments tumbled 43 percent to $81 million and were down 19 percent to $1.8 billion in the year.
China remained the biggest source of New Zealand imports, with monthly incoming shipments falling 1.3 percent to $631 million for an annual gain of 2.3 percent to $7.7 billion. Imports from Australia rose 6 percent to $499 million in the months and fell 1.8 percent to $7.2 billion in the year.
Imports from the US dropped about 29 percent in the month to $368 million and fell 19 percent to $4.2 billion in the year.
Crude oil and petroleum was the biggest import, falling 18 percent to $616 million in January from a year earlier, to be unchanged in the 12-month period at $8.2 billion.