The shortfall narrowed to NZ$846 million ($624 million) in the 12 months ended Nov. 30 from a revised NZ$1.17 billion in the year through October, the statistics bureau said in Wellington today. The gap was the least since September 2002.
The trade deficit has shrunk to less than a sixth of its size at the start of 2009 as the nation’s worst recession in three decades curbed demand for imports. Purchases of imported cars and computers may increase this year as the economy recovers, while a rising currency will curb exports, adding to signs the deficit may not narrow much further.
Economists monitor a rolling, 12-month trade balance for New Zealand because of volatility in the month-on-month figures, which aren’t seasonally adjusted. In November, there was a trade deficit of NZ$269 million from NZ$495 million in October.
Imports in November posted their eighth straight decline from a year earlier, falling 22 percent to NZ$3.34 billion, the statistics agency said.
The drop was led by purchases of crude oil, diesel, fertilizer, mechanical equipment and computer parts. Passenger car imports surged 47 percent.
The monthly figures don’t adjust for prices. The value of oil imports dropped 36 percent from a year earlier after prices fell 30 percent.
Exports in November dropped 17 percent from a year earlier to NZ$3.07 billion, led by dairy, meat and logs, today’s report showed.
Machinery and aluminum exports also declined. The value of crude oil shipments surged 89 percent reflecting output from the Maari field, which began producing in July.
Overseas shipments of milk powder, butter and cheese, which make up almost one-fifth of total exports, fell 25 percent, the agency said. Whole milk powder exports slumped 22 percent because of lower prices even as volumes shipped increased 48 percent from November 2008, the agency said.
Exports earnings are falling because the New Zealand dollar’s gains are more than offsetting rising world prices of meat, wool and aluminum. The currency has increased 25 percent against the U.S. dollar in the past 12 months.
Prices of New Zealand’s commodity exports in world markets rose 17 percent in November from a year earlier, according to an index calculated by ANZ National Bank Ltd. Once translated into New Zealand dollars, prices dropped 8.5 percent.