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Overseas Merchandise Trade: February 2015
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  25 March 2015
Commentary

All comparisons are between February 2015 and February 2014, unless otherwise stated.

Exports fall 13 percent

In February 2015, goods exports were valued at $3.9 billion, down $608 million (13 percent) from February 2014. This was the second-highest value ever of goods exported for a February month. Exports in February 2014 were the highest ever for February months, valued at $4.5 billion.

Fall in exports due to milk powder to China

Milk powder, butter, and cheese (New Zealand’s largest export commodity group) fell $647 million (41 percent) to $913 million. The fall was driven by lower prices, with the quantity exported in February 2015 down 10 percent. 

Graph, Milk powder, butter, and cheese exports, monthly values and quantities, December 2008 to February 2015.

The fall in milk powder, butter, and cheese exports for February 2015 was led by whole milk powder, down $457 million (51 percent). Whole milk powder quantity exported fell 15 percent.

By destination, milk powder, butter and cheese exports to China fell $525 million (77 percent). There were smaller falls to other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Meat and edible offal (New Zealand’s second-largest export commodity group) rose $78 million (12 percent). The rise was due to higher prices, with the quantity down 0.6 percent. Frozen beef drove the rise, up $71 million (33 percent).

Other key changes in commodity group export values, for February 2015:

  • crude oil fell $51 million
  • aluminium and aluminium articles fell $33 million.

Exports to China fall

The monthly movements for February 2015 for our top export destinations (ranked by total annual exports) were:

  1. China – down $421 million (36 percent) to $740 million, due to whole milk powder. Wool rose $27 million.
  2. Australia – down $59 million (8.1 percent), due to crude oil, down $68 million.
  3. United States – up $100 million (26 percent), led by frozen beef, up $60 million.
  4. European Union (EU) – down $41 million (9.4 percent), led by milk powder, butter, and cheese, down $15 million (41 percent), and wine, down $12 million (34 percent). Harvesting machinery parts (such as fruit graders) partly offset the fall, up $15 million.
  5. Japan – down $58 million (21 percent). Unwrought aluminium fell $36 million, while crude oil partly offset the fall, up $17 million.

Imports rise 3.7 percent

In February 2015, goods imports were valued at $3.9 billion, up $139 million (3.7 percent) from February 2014.

Consumption goods lead the rise in imports

Of the three main broad economic categories, consumption and capital goods increased in value, while intermediate goods decreased in value compared with February 2014. 

Consumption goods rose $126 million (14 percent), led by semi-durable consumer goods (such as knitted clothing).

Capital goods rose $61 million (8.8 percent). Machinery and plant equipment rose $66 million (13 percent) led by mobile telephones (personal and business use).

Intermediate goods fell $44 million (2.5 percent), due to crude oil, down $197 million (42 percent). Processed industrial supplies (including aluminium oxide) partly offset the fall, up $88 million (12 percent).

In other categories of goods:

  • passenger motor cars rose $29 million (11 percent)
  • petrol and avgas fell $35 million (27 percent).  

Four of our top five import partners show increases

The monthly movements for February 2015 for our top import partners (ranked by total annual imports) were:

  1. EU – up $27 million (4.1 percent), led by petroleum bitumen from Spain (up $13 million) and aircraft from France (up $9.1 million). The rise was partly offset by a fall in trains from Spain (down $13 million).
  2. China – up $156 million (24 percent), led by knitted clothing (such as jerseys).
  3. Australia – up $91 million (20 percent), led by crude oil and aluminium oxide.
  4. United States – down $4.6 million (1.3 percent), due to motor spirit and goods vehicles.
  5. Japan – up $28 million (11 percent), led by motor cars.

Import shipments of petroleum tend to fluctuate depending on where they come from, which causes large changes in quantities and values. In February 2015, petroleum influenced other significant movements. Saudi Arabia and Singapore showed increases; Russia, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Korea, and Kuwait showed decreases. 

Small trade surplus in February 2015

In February 2015, there was a small trade surplus of $50 million (1.3 percent of exports). This compares with an average surplus of 9.8 percent of exports over the previous five February months. 

For the year ended February 2015, there was an annual trade deficit of $2.2 billion (4.4 percent of exports). This is down from the most-recent peak, which was a surplus of $1.8 billion for the year ended August 2014.

Seasonally adjusted exports fall 3.2 percent

The seasonally adjusted value of exported goods in February 2015 fell 3.2 percent ($128 million) from January 2015. This follows a 2.4 percent increase in January 2015 from December 2014.

The trend for exports has fallen 7.8 percent since the recent peak in January 2014.

Trend for monthly exports to China continues to fall

Seasonally adjusted country exports series for Australia, China, and EU were developed last quarter. These series are available on Infoshare (See 'Seasonally adjusted and trend values of exports & re-exports - by country - fob (Monthly)').

Comparisons are between February 2015 and January 2015.

The seasonally adjusted monthly movements for February 2015 for these countries (ranked by total annual exports) were:

  1. China – up 11 percent ($64 million) to $631 million. However, the trend for exports to China has been falling for over a year now. It is 45 percent lower than the series peak in December 2013, and is now at similar levels to mid-2012.
  2. Australia – up 4.0 percent ($27 million) to $701 million. The trend for exports to Australia has been falling in recent years. It is 24 percent lower than the series peak in July 2011.
  3. EU – down 14 percent ($61 million) to $386 million.

Change in seasonally adjusted export values

Milk powder, butter, and cheese exports fell 10 percent ($99 million), following a 5.2 percent fall in January 2015. The seasonally adjusted quantity fell 6.0 percent.

Fruit exports fell 25 percent ($50 million), following a 34 percent rise in January 2015. The seasonally adjusted quantity fell 55 percent, following a 22 percent rise.

Ships, boats, and floating structures exports fell 90 percent ($35 million), following a 15 percent fall in January 2015. This group is not seasonally adjusted.

Logs, wood, wood articles exports rose 23 percent ($62 million), following a 14 percent fall in January 2015.

Crude oil exports more than doubled, up $37 million. However, export values for January 2015 were the lowest since March 2007. Crude oil is not seasonally adjusted; exports vary and are affected by the timing of shipments.

Trend for milk powder, butter, and cheese continues to fall

The trend for milk powder, butter, and cheese exports has been falling for 14 consecutive months. It is now 36 percent lower than the series peak in December 2013.

Recent trends for the values of other leading commodity groups show that:

  • meat and edible offal has been increasing since June 2014 and has reached a new high.
  • logs, wood, and wood articles has fallen 11 percent since the series peak in October 2013 but appears to be rising. More data points are required to confirm this. 

Seasonally adjusted imports rise 5.8 percent

Seasonally adjusted imports rose 5.8 percent ($234 million), to $4.3 billion in February 2015, compared with January 2015. This follows an 8.7 percent fall in January 2015 compared with December 2014. Excluding petroleum and products, seasonally adjusted imports rose 5.9 percent in February 2015.

The trend for import values has been rising in recent months and is now at a series high.

China top source for monthly imports

Seasonally adjusted country imports series for EU, China, and Australia were developed last quarter. These series are available on Infoshare (See 'SCS - Seasonally adjusted and trend values of imports - by country (Monthly)').

Comparisons are between February 2015 and January 2015.

The seasonally adjusted monthly movements for February 2015 for these countries (ranked by total annual imports) were:

  1. EU – up 5.8 percent ($43 million) to $796 million. The trend for imports from EU has showed little change in the past 12 months.
  2. China – up 9.1 percent ($69 million) to $831 million.
  3. Australia – up 25 percent ($118 million) to $584 million.

Exchange rate movements

According to the Reserve Bank’s trade weighted index, the New Zealand dollar was 1.3 percent lower in February 2015 than in January 2015, and 0.2 percent lower than in February 2014. 

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

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