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Overseas Merchandise Trade: April 2009
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  26 May 2009
Commentary

Information in this release is for the month of April 2009 compared with April 2008 unless otherwise stated.

Exports

The value of merchandise exports for April 2009 was $3.6 billion, down $176 million (4.6 percent) from April 2008. This is only the second monthly decrease in exports (compared with the same month of the previous year) since August 2007.

The trend for total merchandise exports has flattened recently, increasing at an average of less than 0.1 percent per month since October 2008. Prior to this, the trend had been rising at an average of 1.2 percent per month since February 2007, the last time it showed a decrease.

This month’s decrease in exports was led by falls in crude oil, and aluminium and aluminium articles. The decrease was partly offset by increases in fruit, and meat and edible offal.

Crude oil exports fell $204 million (61.3 percent) in April 2009 compared with April 2008. This fall was due to decreases in both price and quantity. The decrease in quantity was despite crude oil exports commencing from the Maari oil field in this month.

Aluminium and aluminium articles decreased $65 million (51.1 percent), led by a drop in the quantity and price of unwrought aluminium exported.

The largest offsetting increase was a $61 million (22.7 percent) increase in exports of fruit, led by a $47 million price-driven rise in kiwifruit. This month’s increase was despite a $9 million decrease in kiwifruit exports to Japan, which has traditionally been the largest importer of New Zealand kiwifruit.

 Graph, Fruid Exports.

The next largest increase was for meat and edible offal, which was up $60 million (12.5 percent) compared with April 2008. Sheep meat contributed $40 million to this rise, largely as the result of higher prices, while frozen boneless beef cuts contributed $34 million.

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By country of destination, the largest decreases were to Australia (down $179 million, or 20.7 percent), Venezuela (down $74 million, or 83.7 percent) and Japan (down $72 million, or 20.8 percent). The fall in exports to Australia was led by a halving in the value of crude oil, while the decreases to Venezuela and Japan were led by whole milk powder and unwrought aluminium, respectively.

Graph, Exports to Australia.

The largest increase in exports was to the People’s Republic of China, up $126 million (65.2 percent), led by quantity-driven increases in whole milk powder and logs of pinus radiata.

Imports

In April 2009, the value of merchandise imports was $745 million (18.1 percent) lower when compared with April 2008, with a total value of $3.4 billion for the month. This month's decrease is the largest since the series began in 1962 (in dollar terms). However, this has been greatly affected by large one-off imports in April 2008. Without these, the movement for this month would be a decrease of $267 million (7.3 percent).

The trend for the value of merchandise imports has been decreasing since September 2008, down a total of 11.0 percent since then, although the rate of decline appears to be easing. However, initial trend estimates may be revised and should be used with caution until more data points are available.

Of the main broad economic categories, the capital goods category recorded the largest decrease, down $592 million (52.7 percent), led by decreases in one-off imports of civil engineering machinery and other transport equipment. Intermediate goods were down $177 million (9.9 percent) due to a variety of sub categories. Crude oil partly offset these decreases with a $29 million (10.1 percent) increase. Consumption goods increased $42 million (4.9 percent) over the same period.

Graph, Imports by Broad Econimic Category.

At the more detailed commodity level, the largest imports decrease in April 2009 was from mechanical machinery and equipment which decreased $386 million (49.9 percent). This decrease was mainly due to an oil platform valued at $297 million being imported in April 2008.

The next largest decrease was for vehicles, parts, and accessories, which decreased $127 million (32.4 percent). Passenger motor cars decreased $59 million (27.0 percent) through decreases in most vehicle categories, with the only notable offsetting exception being new petrol motor vehicles exceeding 1500cc but not exceeding 3000cc. These increased $25 million (46.4 percent) for the month. Goods transport vehicles decreased $50 million (57.2 percent), led by decreases in goods transport vehicles not exceeding 3500kg (down $29 million or 49.7 percent), and goods transport vehicles exceeding 20 tonnes (down $15 million or 73.8 percent).

The largest offsetting commodities showing increases were: petroleum and products (up $31 million or 4.8 percent), optical, medical and measuring equipment (up $24 million or 24.8 percent), and electrical machinery and equipment (up $20 million or 6.8 percent).

By country of origin, the largest decrease in imports came from Malaysia (down $333 million or 82.1 percent), mostly due to the import of the oil platform mentioned above. The imports value for Singapore decreased $237 million (63.9 percent), mostly due to an oil production vessel imported in April 2008.

The Republic of Korea had the largest increase in imports, up $55 million (68.2 percent), led by increases in diesel (up $29 million) and motor spirit (up $28 million). Neither of these products were imported from Korea in April 2008.

Trade balance

In April 2009, the trade balance was a surplus of $276 million or 7.5 percent of the value of exports. This compares with a $293 million deficit or 7.6 percent of exports in April 2008, and a deficit of $216 million or 6.8 percent of exports in April 2007.

The trend for the trade balance has risen significantly over the past eight months. While still in deficit, the trade balance trend is at its highest level since April 2002.

Graph, Merchandise Trade Balance.

The annual trade balance for the year ended April 2009 was a deficit of $4.1 billion (9.5 percent of exports). As a percentage of exports, this is less than the average of 15.7 percent for the preceding five years.

Three months ended April 2009

Exports of merchandise goods for the three months ended April 2009 were valued at $11.2 billion, an increase of $198 million, or 1.8 percent compared with the three months ended April 2008.

In the three months ended April 2009, key increases and decreases in exports compared with the three months ended April 2008 were as follows:

By commodity:

  • Meat and edible offal had the largest increase, up $303 million (20.5 percent), led by a $212 million increase in exports of sheep meat, and an $80 million increase in frozen, boneless beef cuts.
  • Aircraft and parts had the next largest increase, up $135 million due to the export of large aircraft in March 2009.
  • Fruit recorded the third largest increase, rising by $111 million (29.9 percent) led by a $67 million (39.3 percent) rise in kiwifruit exports.
  • Crude oil led the commodities recording decreases, falling $308 million (48.5 percent) due to decreases in both price and quantity, including a $190 million fall in crude oil exports to Australia.
  • Milk powder, butter, and cheese, recorded the next biggest decrease, down $286 million (11.3 percent) as whole milk powder fell $270 million.

By country:

  • The largest increase in exports was to China, up $408 million (67.1 percent), led by whole milk powder, logs of pinus radiata, and milk-based powdered nutritional formulas.
  • The next largest increase was to the United States of America, up $269 million (26.8 percent), with increases across a number of commodities, including frozen, boneless beef cuts and cheese.
  • Venezuela recorded the largest decrease, down $140 million (61.5 percent), led by a $137 million quantity-driven fall in whole milk powder.
  • The second largest decrease was to Japan, down $110 million (12.2 percent), led by a $130 million fall in the value of unwrought aluminium, driven by decreased quantities.

Imports of merchandise goods for the three months ended April 2009 were valued at $10.0 billion, down 9.9 percent from the same period of the previous year.

In the three months ended April 2009, key increases and decreases in the value of imports compared with the three months ended April 2008 were as follows:

By commodity:

  • The vehicles, parts and accessories category had the largest decrease, down 43.4 percent ($548 million), mainly due to decreases in passenger motor vehicles (down $371 million or 49.6 percent) and goods transport vehicles (down $159 million or 57.2 percent).
  • Petroleum and products decreased 20.5 percent ($386 million) – the second largest decrease (due to a $464 million decrease in crude oil, partly offset by a $90 million increase in refined and partly refined oils).
  • Electrical machinery and equipment recorded the largest increase for the quarter, up 18.3 percent ($156 million), led by increases in a variety of categories including electric transformers, static converters and inductors; telecommunications transmission equipment; and electric generating sets and rotary converters.

By country of origin:

  • Malaysia was the largest decrease, down 67.3 percent ($495 million), mostly due to the previously mentioned oil platform being imported in April 2008, as well as crude oil not being imported from Malaysia this quarter, resulting in a fall of $169 million.
  • Australia was down 11.9 percent ($240 million) – the second largest decrease – due to decreases in a variety of items including petroleum and products (down $92 million), vehicles, parts and accessories (down $59 million), and aluminium oxide (down $39 million).
  • The largest increase was from China, up 13.4 percent ($177 million), due to increases in several categories including textile and textile articles, up 22.7 percent ($65 million); and electrical machinery and equipment, up 19.4 percent ($45 million).

Exchange rate movements

According to the Reserve Bank’s Trade Weighted Index, the New Zealand dollar rose 5.6 percent in April 2009 compared with March 2009, and is down 19.1 percent compared with April 2008. This is the largest monthly increase (compared to the previous month) since December 2000.

Graph, Trade Weighted Index.  

Updates to previous statistics

Provisional values published on 29 April 2009 have been updated. Merchandise trade statistics for the latest three months are provisional to allow for the inclusion of late data and amendments.

Graph, Table.

For technical information contact:
Kate Jackett or Henry Minish
Christchurch 03 964 8700
Email: overseastrade@stats.govt.nz

Next release ...

 Overseas Merchandise Trade: May 2009 will be released on 29 June 2009.

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