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Worst trade deficit in eight years

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 23/03/2017

New Zealand has posted its worst annual trade deficit since 2009, according to official statistics.

Statistics New Zealand says in the year to March, 2017 the trade deficit - which measures how much is exported minus what's imported - grew to $3.8 billion - the largest since April 2009.

And that figure includes the export of a large drilling platform in 2016. When that's taken out, the deficit grows to $4.0 billion, just under the $4.1 billion deficit eight years ago.

But, on a monthly basis, the deficit narrowed to $18 million in February, down from a $257 million trade deficit In January.

The monthly trade deficit was worth 0.5 per cent of exports, which compared to an average surplus of 9.1 per cent of exports for the previous five February months, Stats NZ said.

Economists had expected a trade surplus of $180 million for the month, based on a Reuters survey.

Milk powder, butter and cheese - the largest export commodity group - rose $55 million or 5.6 per cent in February.

The largest rise in milk powder exports in February 2017 was to the United Arab Emirates, up $39 million or 123 per cent.

China remained the country's top export destination in February, up 6.3 per cent while exports to Australia rose 2.1 per cent.

Imports rose 4 per cent to $4.0 billion but excluding crude oil, the total of all other imported goods rose by only 1.4 per cent, Stats NZ said.

Imports from China fell 10 per cent to $775 million, led by a fall in clothing. Imports from the EU rose 2.9 per cent to $680 million, led by rises in passenger motor cars and aircraft parts.

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