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Overseas Merchandise Trade: May 2012
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  27 June 2012
Commentary

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

Overview – exports fall in May 2012

Exported goods fell $202 million (4.4 percent) in May 2012, to $4.4 billion. The decrease was led by meat and edible offal, logs, wood, and wood articles, and milk powder, butter, and cheese. Imported goods were valued at $4.1 billion in May 2012, up $46 million (1.1 percent).

The seasonally adjusted value of exports fell 1.3 percent in May 2012 compared with April 2012. Imports were up 0.8 percent ($33 million) over the same period.

The trend for goods exported has fallen from the record levels of late-2011 and is back to mid-2010 levels. The trend for import values (excluding one-off imports) has been flat in recent months.

In May 2012, there was a trade surplus of $301 million (6.8 percent of exports). This compares with an average surplus of 9.8 percent of exports over the previous five May months, although there were larger surpluses in the previous three May months.  

Exports fall 4.4 percent

In May 2012, merchandise exports were valued at $4.4 billion, down $202 million (4.4 percent) from May 2011.

Decrease in exports led by meat and edible offal

Meat and edible offal recorded the largest decrease, down $82 million (13 percent). The fall was led by frozen lamb, down $64 million (28 percent). Quantities were down 2.2 percent. The decrease in meat and edible offal was spread over many countries of destination, however, exports to China increased.

  Graph, Meat and edible offal exports, monthly values and quantities, March 2006 to May 2012.

Other key changes in commodity export values

By commodity group, the value of exports fell in May 2012 for the following commodity groups.

  • Logs, wood, and wood articles fell $63 million (19 percent), due to pinus radiata logs, which fell $71 million (39 percent).
  • Milk powder, butter, and cheese fell $60 million (6.2 percent), across a range of products, including milk powders and anhydrous milk fat. Cheddar cheese recorded the only significant increase, up $17 million (30 percent). Quantities were up 6.9 percent.
  • Ships, boats, and floating structures fell $52 million (49 percent), due to a fall in pleasure boats.
  • Crude oil fell $43 million (20 percent). Exports of crude oil tend to be irregular.

Electrical machinery and equipment recorded the largest increase for the month, up $28 million (30 percent). The rise was over a range of commodities.

Casein and caseinates rose $27 million (41 percent) and petroleum and products other than crude oil rose $27 million.  

Exports to Australia show the largest decrease

The value of exports to the following countries fell in May 2012.

  • Australia was down $106 million (11 percent). Crude oil was the largest contributor, down $82 million (39 percent).
  • The Marshall Islands were down $96 million. The fall was due to pleasure boat exports in May 2011, with no similar exports in May 2012.
  • Mexico was down $32 million (56 percent), mainly due to a fall in unsweetened whole milk powder, down $28 million (95 percent).
  • Korea was down $27 million (15 percent), mostly due to a fall in pinus radiata logs, down $24 million (68 percent).
  • Algeria was down $24 million (47 percent), due to falls in anhydrous milk fat and unsweetened whole milk powder.  

The value of exports to the following countries rose in May 2012.

  • Bermuda was up $48 million, due to pleasure boats.
  • Singapore was up $46 million (64 percent), mostly due to crude oil, up $39 million.
  • China was up $40 million (7.1 percent). The increase was over a range of commodities such as frozen lamb and unsweetened whole milk powder. A fall in pinus radiata logs, down $50 million (45 percent), partly offset the increase.
  • The United States was up $33 million (7.7 percent), led by casein and caseinates, up $18 million.
  • The United Arab Emirates was up $31 million (75 percent), due to an increase in unsweetened whole milk powder, up $29 million.  

Imports up 1.1 percent in May 2012

In the May 2012 month, merchandise imports were valued at $4.1 billion, up $46 million (1.1 percent) from May 2011.

Excluding one-off imports in May 2011, merchandise imports rose $260 million (6.8 percent).

Capital and consumption goods increase in May 2012

Of the three main economic categories, the value of capital and consumption goods rose and intermediate goods fell.

Graph, Imports by broad economic category, monthly values, March 2006 to May 2012.

Capital goods rose $109 million (17 percent). Machinery and plant rose $78 million (14 percent), due to sinking and boring machinery. Industrial transport equipment increased $31 million (37 percent), led by diesel goods vehicles, up $9.5 million (39 percent).

Consumption goods rose $36 million (4.0 percent). Semi-durable consumption goods (such as clothing and footwear) and processed food and beverages were the main contributors.

Intermediate goods fell $280 million (13 percent). The two contributors were parts for transport equipment, down $211 million (57 percent), and crude oil, down $140 million (26 percent). Parts for transport equipment fell due to the one-off importation of aircraft parts in May 2011.

In other categories of goods:

  • petrol and avgas rose $109 million (74 percent)
  • passenger motor cars rose $89 million (43 percent), led by new petrol cars with an engine capacity of 1500–3000cc, up $42 million (92 percent).

Key movements in commodity import values

The changes in commodity groupings were consistent with the changes in the broad economic category section above. Mechanical machinery and equipment and vehicles rose. Aircraft and parts fell in value.

Imports by country of origin

In May 2012, the value of imports rose (in order of significance) for:

  • Singapore, up $113 million (52 percent), due to petroleum and petroleum products
  • China, up $108 million (20 percent), over a range of commodities, led by mechanical machinery and equipment, and electrical machinery and equipment
  • Oman, up $72 million, due to crude oil
  • Japan, up $64 million (31 percent), due to passenger motor cars
  • Taiwan, up $61 million, mainly due to an increase in regular motor spirit.

Australia (New Zealand’s largest trading partner) was up $44 million (7.0 percent). The rise was led by crude oil, up $45 million, and raw cane sugar, up $21 million. Partly offsetting the rise were falls in electrical machinery and equipment, down $11 million (25 percent), and cereals, down $10 million (33 percent).

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

  • The United States was down $225 million (40 percent), due to the one-off importation of aircraft parts in May 2011.
  • Russia was down $199 million, Saudi Arabia was down $85 million, and the United Arab Emirates was down $29 million (76 percent). The falls were due to decreases in the value of crude oil imports.
  • The United Kingdom was down $30 million (23 percent). Crude oil fell $50 million as there was none imported in May 2012. The fall was partly offset by an increase in turbo-jets. 

Trade surplus in May 2012

In May 2012, there was a trade surplus of $301 million (6.8 percent of exports). This compares with an average surplus of 9.8 percent of exports over the previous five May months. This follows surpluses of $906 million (23 percent of exports) in May 2009, $770 million (18 percent of exports) in May 2010, and $550 million (12 percent of exports) in May 2011.

Graph, Merchandise trade balance, monthly, March 2006 to May 2012.

For the year ended May 2012, there was an annual trade deficit of $805 million (1.7 percent of exports). This compares with an average deficit of 6.7 percent of exports over the previous five May years. The May 2011 year had a surplus of $1.0 billion (2.2 percent of exports).

Seasonally adjusted exports fall 1.3 percent

The seasonally adjusted value of exported goods fell 1.3 percent ($45 million) in May 2012 compared with April 2012. This follows a 1.1 percent fall in April 2012. Although total exports are down slightly, most of the main export commodities are higher.

The trend for goods exported, which reflects how export values have changed over time, has fallen from a record high in November 2011 and is back to mid-2010 levels.

Graph, Merchandise export values, monthly, March 2006 to May 2012. 

Seasonally adjusted export commodity groupings

The fall in seasonally adjusted exports was driven by commodity groupings that are often irregular and are not seasonally adjusted, such as crude oil, and ships, boats, and floating structures.

Milk powder, butter, and cheese recorded the highest increase in seasonally adjusted exports, up 5.0 percent ($40 million) compared to April 2012. Quantities were up 6.2 percent. Milk powder, butter, and cheese is the largest export commodity group.

Meat and edible offal was up 11 percent ($40 million), with quantities up 10 percent.

Fruit was up 20 percent ($22 million), with quantities up 12 percent.

Logs, wood, and wood articles were down 4.3 percent ($10 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 fallen 21 percent since November 2011.
  • Meat and edible offal has been declining since July 2011.
  • Logs, wood, and wood articles has been declining since March 2011.
  • Fruit has been falling since November 2011.

Graph, Indexed export trend values by leading commodity groupings, monthly, March 2006 to May 2012. 

Seasonally adjusted imports show small increase in May 2012

The seasonally adjusted value of imported goods increased slightly in May 2012 compared with April 2012, up 0.8 percent ($33 million). This follows a 3.5 percent decrease in seasonally adjusted imports in April 2012.

The trend for import values (excluding one-off imports) has been flat in recent months. The trend for goods imported is up 25 percent since its most recent low point in September 2009, but it is still 6.3 percent below its peak in September 2008.

Graph, Merchandise import values, monthly, March 2006 to May 2012. 

Excluding petroleum and products, and one-off imports, the trend for imports has been mainly increasing since October 2009 (up 23 percent). However, it is still 5.0 percent lower than in October 2008.

Exchange rate movements

According to the Reserve Bank’s Trade Weighted Index, the New Zealand dollar was 4.1 percent lower in May 2012 than in April 2012, and 1.9 percent higher than in May 2011.

Graph, Trade weighted index, monthly, Base: June 1979 (=100), March 2006 to May 2012. 

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

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