The gap narrowed to NZ$5.16 billion ($3.1 billion) in the 12 months ended Nov. 30 from NZ$5.27 billion in the year through October, Statistics New Zealand said in Wellington today.
New Zealand’s economy was in a prolonged recession last year as a housing slump and the global financial crisis curbed spending on imported cars and computers. Consumer spending on debit and credit cards posted the biggest fall in almost three years in November, according to a government report this week.
Imports rose 5.2 percent in November from a year earlier to NZ$4.21 billion, the slowest annual gain since January, the statistics agency said.
Car imports plunged 52 percent from a year earlier, the agency said. Petroleum and jet fuel imports also declined.
The figures aren’t adjusted for inflation and reflect falling prices for imports as well as actual shipments.
Crude oil imports increased because of higher volumes. The price paid by oil importers fell 29 percent from October after global crude prices dropped to less than $50 barrel for the first time since May 2005 on Nov. 20.
Imports of fertilizer and other chemicals rose amid an increase in prices, the agency said.
Exports gained 9.4 percent in November from a year earlier to NZ$3.69 billion.
Sales of milk powder, butter and cheese, which make up almost one-fifth of overseas shipments, rose 10 percent in November from a year earlier.
The value of crude oil sales fell 60 percent and aluminum exports also declined.
Prices of butter, meat and other commodities dropped 7.2 percent in November from October, according to an index compiled by ANZ National Bank Ltd.
Economists monitor the rolling, 12-month trade balance because of volatility in the month-on-month figures, which aren’t seasonally adjusted.
In November, there was a NZ$520 million trade deficit compared with a NZ$628 million gap a year earlier. Economists expected a NZ$775 million monthly deficit.