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Overseas Merchandise Trade: January 2012
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  27 February 2012
Commentary

All comparisons are between January 2012 and January 2011, unless otherwise stated.

Overview – exports and imports both rise

In January 2012, the value of exported goods rose $430 million (13 percent), to $3.7 billion. Imported goods rose $637 million (19 percent), to $3.9 billion.

For January 2012 compared with December 2011, the seasonally adjusted value of exports fell slightly, while imports rose strongly – influenced by the one-off importation of large aircraft.

The trend value for exports remains at record-high levels. The trend value for imports (excluding one-off capital items) is up 27 percent since its most recent low point in September 2009, but is still 5.1 percent below its overall peak in September 2008.

In January 2012, there was a trade deficit of $199 million, or 5.3 percent of the exports value. Excluding the one-off importation of aircraft, there would have been a small trade surplus of $14 million (0.4 percent of the value of exports).

Note: From January 2012 overseas merchandise trade data is compiled using the Harmonised System classification (HS2012). Before January 2012, the 2007 Harmonised System classification (HS2007) applies. Due to the change in classification in January, data users need to take care when analysing time series data. Changes from the latest review are not expected to be as significant as with the introduction of HS2007.

See Harmonised System 2012 and trade statistics for more information. 
 

Exports up 13 percent in January 2012

In January 2012, merchandise exports were valued at $3.7 billion, up $430 million (13 percent) from January 2011.

Increase in exports led by whole milk powder

Milk powder, butter, and cheese, New Zealand’s largest export commodity, increased $261 million (25 percent) in January 2012. The increase was led by unsweetened whole milk powder, up $134 million (28 percent). Unsalted butter was up $45 million (45 percent).

Graph, milk powder, butter, and cheese exports, monthly values and quantities, December 2009 to January 2012. Graph, meat and edible offal exports, monthly values and quantities, December 2009 to January 2012.

Other key changes in commodity export values

By commodity group, the value of exports in January 2012 rose for:

  • casein and caseinates, up $29 million (49 percent)
  • wine, up $24 million (45 percent), led by still white wine with quantities up significantly
  • wool, up $23 million (46 percent), with quantities and prices higher
  • fish, crustaceans, and molluscs, up $20 million (21 percent), led by an $11 million rise in live rock lobsters.

Meat and edible offal (New Zealand’s second-largest export commodity) fell $59 million (13 percent). Frozen sheep and beef cuts led the decrease.

Crude oil, down $37 million (21 percent) also showed a significant decrease. Monthly exports of crude oil tend to be variable and are affected by the timing of shipments.

Exports to China record the largest increase

By country of destination, the value of exports in January 2012 rose for:

  • China, up $173 million (38 percent), led by milk powder, butter, and cheese (whole and skim milk powder)
  • Venezuela, up $43 million, more than three times the January 2011 value due to an increase in unsweetened whole milk powder
  • the United States, up $41 million (15 percent), led by natural milk constituents and casein and caseinates
  • Australia, up $34 million (4.9 percent), led by still white wine
  • Egypt, up $30 million, more than double the January 2011 value, led by unsalted butter
  • Japan, up $29 million (15 percent) over a range of commodities.

Russia recorded the largest fall, down $20 million (50 percent) due to a decrease in unsalted butter exports.

Imports up 19 percent in January 2012

In January 2012, merchandise imports were valued at $3.9 billion, up $637 million (19 percent) from January 2011.

Excluding one-off capital imports (such as large aircraft), merchandise imports were valued at $3.7 billion, up $424 million (13 percent).

Increase in imports driven by intermediate goods and capital goods

All three main broad economic categories (intermediate, capital, and consumption goods), increased in value in January 2012.

Graph, imports by broad economic category, monthly values, December 2005 to January 2012.

Intermediate goods had the largest increase in value, up $306 million (19 percent). The majority of the rise was due to increases in crude oil, up $147 million (39 percent), and automotive diesel, up $113 million. Crude oil and other petroleum products are imported in large, irregular shipments, which can cause large percentage fluctuations. Fertilisers had the largest non-petroleum increase, up $30 million (95 percent).

Capital goods rose $271 million (51 percent). The rise was driven by transport equipment, up $224 million due to the one-off importation of large aircraft. Machinery and plant rose $47 million (10 percent) over a range of commodities – portable computers recorded the largest increase.

Consumption goods rose $93 million (12 percent), led by:

  • semi-durable consumption goods (such as clothing), up $39 million (17 percent)
  • processed food and beverages, up $27 million (16 percent).

In other categories of goods:

  • passenger motor cars were up $12 million (7.0 percent). Petrol cars with an engine capacity exceeding 3000cc had the largest increase, up $13 million
  • petrol and avgas was down $54 million (31 percent), led by regular motor spirit.

Key movements in commodity import values

By commodity group, the value of imports in January 2012 rose for:

  • aircraft and parts, up $236 million due to the one-off importation of large aircraft; aircraft parts increased $24 million
  • petroleum and products (the largest commodity group), up $205 million (35 percent), led by an increase in crude oil imports (up $147 million) and automotive diesel (up $113 million)
  • vehicles, parts, and accessories, up $38 million (14 percent), led by increases in petrol cars with an engine capacity over 3000cc and diesel goods vehicles
  • fertilisers, up $30 million (95 percent), led by urea
  • textiles and textile articles, up $26 million (16 percent) over a range of clothing commodities.

Graph, petroleum and products imports, monthly values, December 2005 to January 2012. 

Electrical machinery and equipment had the largest decrease, down $30 million (10 percent), led by wind-powered electric generating sets (down $27 million).

Mechanical machinery and equipment (the second-largest commodity group) fell $7.1 million (1.6 percent). Parts of gas turbines fell $61 million, while parts of turbo-jets rose $16 million and portable computers rose $12 million.

Imports from the United States record the largest increase

The value of imports from the following countries rose in January 2012.

  • The United States was up $229 million (79 percent), due to the importation of large aircraft.
  • Oman was up $193 million and Brunei was up $186 million, both due to increases in the value of crude oil.
  • China was up $93 million (17 percent), over a range of commodities – clothing and portable computers the had largest increases.
  • The Republic of Korea was up $85 million (69 percent) with increases for automotive diesel (up $73 million) and regular motor spirit (up $26 million).
  • Germany was up $33 million (24 percent) due to an increase for mechanical machinery and equipment ($20 million), led by turbo-jet parts.
  • Canada was up $27 million (88 percent), led by fertiliser imports (up $18 million).

The value of imports from the following countries fell in January 2012.

  • Kuwait was down $80 million, Malaysia was down $78 million, and Qatar was down $55 million, all due to decreases in the value of crude oil.
  • Denmark was down $41 million (81 percent), due to decreases in wind-powered electric generating sets and motor parts.
  • Switzerland was down $23 million (44 percent), due to a fall in parts of gas turbines.
  • Australia was down $22 million (4.4 percent) – regular motor spirit fell (down $42 million), but was partly offset by petrol cars with an engine capacity over 3000cc (up $21 million).

January 2012 trade balance in deficit

In January 2012, there was a trade deficit of $199 million (5.3 percent of exports). Excluding the one-off importation of large aircraft, there would have been a small trade surplus of $14 million (0.4 percent of the value of exports). This compares with an average deficit of 7.5 percent of exports over the previous five January months, despite surpluses in January 2010 and 2011.

 Graph, merchandise trade balance, monthly, December 2005 to January 2012.
For the year ended January 2012, there was an annual trade surplus of $646 million (1.3 percent of exports). This compares with an average deficit of 8.2 percent of exports over the previous five January years. There was a $909 million surplus in the January 2011 year.

Seasonally adjusted exports fall slightly in January 2012

The seasonally adjusted value of exported goods fell slightly in January 2012 compared with December 2011, down 0.5 percent ($21 million) to $4.2 billion. This follows a 6.4 percent rise in December 2011.

The trend for goods exported, which reflects the long-term behaviour in export values, has increased 32 percent since the most-recent low point in October 2009. The trend in exports remains at record-high levels.

Graph, merchandise export values, monthly, December 2005 to January 2012.

Decrease in crude oil leads fall in seasonally adjusted exports

A drop in crude oil exports led the fall in seasonally adjusted exports (down 41 percent or $99 million) in January 2012. Total seasonally adjusted exports actually rose 1.2 percent ($49 million) if crude oil is excluded. Monthly exports of crude oil tend to be variable and are affected by the timing of shipments.

The value of exports for the following commodity groups fell in January 2012 compared with December 2011.

  • Fruit was down 14 percent ($26 million).
  • Meat and edible offal was down 3.6 percent ($15 million), which is the fourth consecutive monthly fall.
  • Aluminium and aluminium articles was down 14 percent ($15 million). This commodity group cannot be seasonally adjusted as it does not have a stable seasonal pattern.
  • Milk powder, butter, and cheese (the largest export commodity grouping) fell 0.8 percent ($9.5 million), following two months of rises.

Key rises in export commodity values that offset the falls came from:

  • fish, crustaceans, and molluscs, up 35 percent ($37 million), with quantities up 34 percent
  • wine, up 24 percent ($21 million), despite quantities being down 19 percent 
  • logs, wood, and wood articles, up 4.5 percent ($11 million).

Trend in values of leading export commodities

Recent trends in the values of the leading commodity groups are as follows.

  • Milk powder, butter, and cheese has generally been increasing since October 2009 and continues to reach new highs.
  • Meat and edible offal has been declining since July 2011.
  • Logs, wood, and wood articles has been declining since March 2011, following strong growth in the 18 months before then.
  • Mechanical machinery and equipment has been flat since declining in mid 2009.
  • Fruit has increased strongly since April 2011.

Graph, indexed export trend values by leading commodity groupings, monthly, December 2005 to January 2012. 

Seasonally adjusted imports show large increase in January 2012

The seasonally adjusted value of imported goods increased in January 2012 compared with December 2011, up 9.7 percent ($377 million) to $4.3 billion. This includes the one-off importation of large aircraft worth $214 million. There was a 5.2 percent decrease in December 2011.

The trend for import values (excluding one-off capital items) is up 27 percent since its most-recent low point in September 2009. However, it is still 5.1 percent below its peak in September 2008.

Graph, merchandise import values, monthly, December 2005 to January 2012.

Excluding petroleum and products, and one-off capital items, the trend for imports has been mainly increasing since October 2009 (up 23 percent). However, it is still 4.2 percent lower than in October 2008.

Aircraft and parts influential in rise of seasonally adjusted imports

In January 2012 compared with December 2011, these import commodities had significant movements in value.

  • Aircraft and parts increased 18 percent ($40 million). Without the large aircraft imported, this group would have fallen $174 million. (Group not seasonally adjusted.)
  • Petroleum and products increased 4.7 percent ($35 million), following a 25 percent ($153 million) increase in December 2011. (Group not seasonally adjusted.)
  • Vehicles, parts, and accessories decreased 20 percent ($77 million), following an 11 percent decrease ($47 million) in December 2011. (Group not seasonally adjusted.)
  • Mechanical machinery and equipment decreased 6.7 percent ($32 million) after a 4.4 percent decrease ($22 million) in December 2011.

Since the most-recent low point in September 2009, the trend for the following commodities has increased.

  • Petroleum and products (the largest import commodity group) is up 48 percent. See trend series in the data quality section for information about trend calculations. 
  • Mechanical machinery and equipment (the second-largest commodity group) has increased 24 percent but the trend appears to be flattening.
  • Electrical machinery and equipment has increased 9.4 percent. 
     

Exchange rate movements

According to the Reserve Bank’s Trade Weighted Index, the New Zealand dollar was 3.8 percent higher in January 2012 than in December 2011, and 3.6 percent higher than in January 2011.

Graph, trade weighted index, monthly, December 2005 to January 2012.

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

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