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Overseas Merchandise Trade: December 2013
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  31 January 2014
Commentary

Seasonally adjusted exports rise 10 percent in December 2013 quarter

For the December 2013 quarter, seasonally adjusted exports were valued at $13.4 billion. This was a rise of 10 percent ($1.2 billion), and followed a similar rise in the September 2013 quarter, which was the previous high.

The trend, which reflects the long-term behaviour of export values, has been increasing, and is now at a new high. It is 18 percent higher than the most recent low point in March 2013.

Graph, Merchandise export values, quarterly, December 2007 to December 2013.

Milk powder, butter, and cheese leads rise in seasonally adjusted exports

Milk powder, butter, and cheese (New Zealand’s largest export commodity group) led the rise in seasonally adjusted exports in the December 2013 quarter. Values were up 27 percent ($918 million), and quantities rose 21 percent. This follows a 27 percent rise in values and 5.3 percent rise in quantities last quarter.

The trend for milk powder, butter, and cheese values has been increasing and has reached a new high. It's now 59 percent higher than the recent low point of March 2013.

Graph, Milk powder, butter, and cheese exports, quarterly, December 2007 to December 2013.

Other key changes in commodity export values

Other key changes for exports were:

  • meat and edible offal (New Zealand’s second-largest export commodity group) – up 4.2 percent ($56 million), with quantities up 9.3 percent
  • fruit up 15 percent ($55 million), with quantities up 1.2 percent
  • casein and caseinates – up 13 percent ($32 million), with quantities down 16 percent
  • electrical machinery and equipment – down 10 percent ($29 million)
  • logs, wood, and wood articles – down 2.2 percent ($24 million), with quantities up 1.6 percent. 

Seasonally adjusted imports decrease 2.8 percent in December 2013 quarter

The seasonally adjusted value of imported goods decreased 2.8 percent ($352 million) to $12.3 billion in the December 2013 quarter. This followed a 7.9 percent ($928 million) increase in the September 2013 quarter.

The trend, which reflects the long-term behaviour of import values, has increased 8.4 percent from the most recent low point of the March 2013 quarter, and is 1.4 percent higher than the previous high point of the September 2008 quarter.

Graph, Merchandise import values, quarterly, December 2007 to December 2013.

Capital goods lead the decrease in seasonally adjusted imports

Of the three main broad economic categories, capital goods and intermediate goods decreased in value in the December 2013 quarter, and consumption goods showed little change.

Graph, Imports by broad economic category, quarterly values, seasonally adjusted, December 2007 to December 2013.

Capital goods decreased 13 percent ($365 million), following an increase of 27 percent ($574 million) in the September 2013 quarter.

The large increase in the value of capital goods imports for the September quarter was led by an oil drilling platform and helicopters.

Intermediate goods decreased 1.4 percent ($76 million), following an increase of 4.4 percent ($237 million) in the September 2013 quarter. Crude oil (not seasonally adjusted) fell 13 percent ($192 million), and processed industrial supplies fell 3.2 percent ($80 million).

Consumption goods showed little change, up 0.2 percent ($4.9 million) in the December 2013 quarter, following an increase of 3.8 percent ($107 million) in the September quarter.

In other categories of goods:

  • petrol and avgas, which is not seasonally adjusted, increased 67 percent ($192 million), following a decrease of 28 percent ($113 million) in the September 2013 quarter.
  • passenger motor cars increased 0.7 percent ($6.8 million), following an increase of 5.0 percent ($46 million) in the previous quarter.

Seasonally adjusted trade surplus in December 2013 quarter

In the December 2013 quarter, there was a seasonally adjusted trade surplus of $1.1 billion (8.0 percent of exports) – the first surplus over $1.0 billion since the series began. This follows a trade deficit of $496 million (4.1 percent of exports) in the September 2013 quarter.

Graph, Merchandise trade balance, quarterly, December 2007 to December 2013.

China – our new top export destination – continues to rise

Country data is not seasonally adjusted. Comparisons are between the December 2013 quarter and the December 2012 quarter.

In the December 2013 quarter, the top three countries New Zealand exported goods to were:

  • China – $3.6 billion worth of exports, up $1.7 billion 
  • Australia – $2.4 billion, down $168 million
  • United States – $1.0 billion, down $36 million. 

In the December 2013 quarter, the top three countries that New Zealand imported goods from were:

  • China – $2.3 billion worth of imports, up $201 million   
  • Australia – $1.7 billion, down $208 million
  • United States – $1.2 billion, up $129 million.

Exports rise 16 percent in December month

In December 2013, goods exports were valued at $4.8 billion, up $658 million (16 percent) from December 2012. This is the third consecutive month of record high exports, led by exports to China.

Rise in exports led by milk powder

Milk powder, butter, and cheese exports rose $611 million (48 percent) to $1.9 billion. This was led by milk powder, up $518 million (64 percent). Quantities were up 5.5 percent. This is the third consecutive month of record high milk powder, butter, and cheese exports. The December month was the highest for milk powder, butter, and cheese exports in 2013.

Graph, Milk powder, butter, and cheese exports, monthly values and quantities, December 2007 to December 2013.

Other key changes in commodity group export values, for December 2013 compared with December 2012:

  • logs, wood, and wood articles – up $76 million (28 percent), due to pine logs
  • casein and caseinates – up $32 million (43 percent)
  • crude oil – down $73 million (42 percent).

Meat and edible offal (New Zealand’s second-largest export commodity) rose $18 million (4.0 percent), to $472 million. The increase was led by sheepmeat.

China continues to lead the increase in exports

Exports to China for the December month were valued at $1.4 billion, up $541 million (67 percent). This was due to milk powder, up $482 million. The next biggest increase was pine logs, up $48 million. The value of exports to China has been at a record high every month since October 2013.

Other key country movements for the December 2013 month were:

  • Korea – up $53 million (43 percent), over a range of commodities.
  • Australia – down $70 million (8.3 percent), due to crude oil.

Imports rise 19 percent in December month

In the December 2013 month, imported goods were valued at $4.2 billion, up $669 million (19 percent) from December 2012.

Graph, Petroleum and products imports, monthly values, December 2007 to December 2013.

Petroleum and products rise 85 percent

The value of petroleum and products rose $429 million (85 percent) in December 2013 compared with December 2012. This was led by increases in crude oil (up $188 million), automotive diesel (up $124 million), and regular motor spirit (up $86 million).

Other key changes in commodity group import values, for December 2013 compared with December 2012:

  • vehicles, parts, and accessories – up $100 million (23 percent), led by passenger motor cars and goods transport vehicles
  • aircraft and parts – down $20 million (43 percent).

Imports of petroleum and products lead country-of-origin changes

Import shipments of petroleum and products tend to fluctuate depending on where they come from, which causes large changes in quantities and values. In December 2013, compared with December 2012, petroleum and products influenced the value of imports from Russia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Korea, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia.

Other significant import movements were seen for:

  • United States – up $71 million (22 percent), led by goods transport vehicles
  • China – up $51 million (8.6 percent) to $649 million
  • Australia – down $47 million (8.0 percent), due to crude oil. This was partly offset by passenger motor cars.

Trade surplus in December month

In the December 2013 month, there was a trade surplus of $523 million (11 percent of exports). This compares with an average surplus of $50 million (0.9 percent of exports) over the previous five December months. In the December 2012 month, the trade balance was in surplus of $535 million (13 percent of exports).

Graph, Merchandise trade balance, monthly, December 2007 to December 2013.

Key movements for the December 2013 year

New Zealand’s two-way goods trade (exports + imports) for the year ended December 2013 was valued at $96.4 billion, up $3.1 billion (3.4 percent) from the previous year.

Goods exported were valued at $48.1 billion, up $2.0 billion (4.4 percent) from the December 2012 year. The value of goods imported was $48.3 billion, up $1.1 billion (2.4 percent) from the year ended December 2012.

For the December 2013 year, there was an annual trade deficit of $259 million (0.5 percent of exports). This compares with an average deficit of 2.5 percent of exports over the previous five December years, although there were surpluses in the December 2010 and December 2011 years.

Milk powder, butter, and cheese record the largest increase in annual exports

Milk powder, butter, and cheese exports were valued at $13.4 billion, up $2.0 billion (17 percent), for the year ended December 2013. This was led by milk powder, with values up 27 percent (to $8.7 billion), and quantities up 2.0 percent. This is now the highest ever value of milk powder exported annually.

By commodity group, other key movements in the value of exports for the December 2013 year were:

  • logs, wood, and wood articles, up $697 million (22 percent), due to a rise in pine log values
  • preparations of cereal, flour, and starch, up $161 million (20 percent), due to infant food
  • meat and edible offal, up $116 million (2.2 percent), due to sheepmeat
  • crude oil, down $400 million (22 percent)
  • mechanical machinery and equipment, down $187 million (11 percent), led by refrigeration equipment for storage and display.

China our top export destination

China became our top export destination for the first time for a December year. Exports to China were valued at $10.0 billion, up $3.1 billion (45 percent), led by milk powder. In the year ended December 2013, 46 percent of milk powder exports went to China.

The annual movements for the other of our top five export destinations were:

  • Australia – down $775 million (7.8 percent), led by crude oil
  • United States – down $156 million (3.7 percent), due to milk powder, butter, and cheese
  • Japan – down $354 million (11 percent), led by golden kiwifruit
  • Korea – up $78 million (5.0 percent), led by pine logs

For the year ended December 2013, our top five export partners accounted for $27.7 billion (58 percent) of total goods exported. This is up $1.9 billion (7.3 percent) from the December 2012 year.

Other significant export movements for the December 2013 year were:

  • Singapore – up $176 million (21 percent), led by milk powder and crude oil
  • Saudi Arabia – down $141 million (21 percent), led by milk powder and cheese.

ASEAN was up $432 million to $4.8 billion. European Union was up $80 million to $4.7 billion.

Vehicles, parts, and accessories record the largest increase in imports

By commodity group, the largest movements in the value of imports for the December 2013 year were:

  • vehicles, parts, and accessories, up $646 million (12 percent), led by passenger motor cars and goods transport vehicles
  • ships, boats, and floating structures, up $218 million, due to a drilling platform
  • aircraft and parts, up $131 million (18 percent), due to helicopters
  • petroleum and products, down $210 million (2.5 percent), due to crude oil. This was partly offset by kerosene and automotive diesel.

The annual movements for our top five import partners were:

  • China – up $548 million (7.1 percent)
  • Australia – down $760 million (11 percent), led by crude oil
  • United States – up $144 million (3.3 percent), led by turbines and goods transport vehicles
  • Japan – up $34 million (1.1 percent), due to passenger motor cars
  • Germany – up $136 million (6.5 percent), led by passenger motor cars.

For the 12 months ended December 2013, our top five import partners accounted for $24.5 billion (51 percent) of total goods imported. This is up $102 million from the December 2012 year.

Other significant import movements for the December 2013 year were:

  • United Arab Emirates was up $691 million, due to crude oil
  • Oman was down $785 million (67 percent), due to crude oil.

European Union was up $780 million to $8.1 billion, and ASEAN increased a little, to reach $7.8 billion.

Exchange rate movements

According to the Reserve Bank’s trade weighted index (TWI), the New Zealand dollar was 0.4 percent higher in December 2013 than in November 2013, and 4.3 percent higher than in December 2012.

The TWI rose 2.7 percent in the December 2013 quarter, compared with the September 2013 quarter. The TWI was 5.0 percent higher in the December 2013 quarter than it was in the same quarter in 2012.

Graph, Trade weighted index, monthly, base: June 1979 (=100), December 2007 to December 2013.

For more detailed data, see the Excel tables in the ‘Downloads’ box.

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