Overseas Merchandise Trade: December 2012

Commentary

Seasonally adjusted exports fall 3.3 percent in December 2012 quarter

The seasonally adjusted value of exported goods decreased 3.3 percent ($389 million) to $11.5 billion in the December 2012 quarter. This followed a 4.4 percent rise in the September 2012 quarter.

The trend for goods exported, which reflects the long-term behaviour in export values, remains at a high level, 3.2 percent lower than its highest point in the September 2011 quarter.

Graph, Merchandise export values, quarterly, December 2006 to December 2012.

Milk powder, butter, and cheese lead fall in seasonally adjusted exports

Milk powder, butter, and cheese (New Zealand’s largest export commodity group) led the fall in seasonally adjusted exports in the December 2012 quarter, down 12 percent ($367 million). This followed a 14 percent rise in the September 2012 quarter. Quantities for the December 2012 quarter fell 15 percent, following a rise of 36 percent in the September 2012 quarter.

 Graph, Milk powder, butter, and cheese exports, quarterly values and quantities, December 2006 to December 2012 quarters.

The trend for milk powder, butter, and cheese values remains at a high level, 2.6 percent lower than the September 2011 quarter.

Other key changes in commodity export values

The value of exports in the December 2012 quarter, compared with the September 2012 quarter, also fell for the following commodity groups.

  • Crude oil, which is not seasonally adjusted, was down $105 million (22 percent).
  • Fruit was down 20 percent ($85 million), with quantities down 4.2 percent. The trend for fruit values has fallen for four consecutive quarters from its highest value in the December 2011 quarter.
  • Meat and edible offal (New Zealand’s second largest export commodity) recorded a small decrease, down 0.8 percent ($10 million). This follows a rise of 10 percent ($127 million) in the September 2012 quarter.

By commodity group, the value of exports rose for:

  • logs, wood, and wood articles, up 8.7 percent ($68 million)
  • fish, crustaceans, and molluscs, up 3.1 percent ($10 million).

Seasonally adjusted imports decrease 1.5 percent in December 2012 quarter

The seasonally adjusted value of imported goods decreased 1.5 percent ($173 million) to $11.5 billion in the December 2012 quarter. This decrease follows a similar 1.5 percent ($174 million) decrease in the September 2012 quarter.

The trend for imports has increased 20 percent from the September 2009 quarter, the most recent low point. The level of the trend is 6.2 percent below its overall peak in the September 2008 quarter.

Graph, Merchandise import values, quarterly, December 2006 to December 2012 quarters.

Consumption goods lead decrease in seasonally adjusted imports

Of the three main broad economic categories, consumption goods and intermediate goods decreased in value in the December 2012 quarter, while capital goods increased.

Graph, Imports by broad economic category, quarterly values, seasonally adjusted, December 2006 to December 2012 quarters.

Consumption goods decreased 1.0 percent ($30 million) in the December 2012 quarter. The trend for consumption goods has been flat since the June 2010 quarter.

Intermediate goods showed little change, down 0.2 percent ($10 million), following an increase of 3.6 percent ($191 million) in the September 2012 quarter. The decrease in the December 2012 quarter was led by a fall of $51 million (8.0 percent) in parts and accessories of capital plant. This was partly offset by crude oil, up $40 million (2.9 percent). These two categories are not seasonally adjusted.

Capital goods increased 1.0 percent ($20 million). Machinery and plant rose 2.2 percent ($38 million), offset by transport equipment, down 4.7 percent ($18 million).

In other categories of goods:

  • Petrol and avgas, which is not seasonally adjusted, decreased 8.9 percent ($29 million), following a large decrease in the previous quarter.
  • Passenger motor cars showed little change, up 0.1 percent ($0.6 million). This follows a decrease of 9.8 percent ($87 million) in the previous quarter.

Seasonally adjusted trade deficit in December 2012 quarter

In the December 2012 quarter, there was a seasonally adjusted trade deficit of $87 million, equivalent to 0.8 percent of exports. This follows a trade surplus of $128 million (1.1 percent of exports) in the September 2012 quarter.

Graph, Merchandise trade balance, quarterly, December 2006 to December 2012 quarters.  

Exports fall 5.1 percent in December month

In the December 2012 month, merchandise exports were valued at $4.1 billion, down $217 million (5.1 percent) from December 2011.

Crude oil leads fall in exports

Crude oil exports were valued at $127 million, down $113 million (47 percent) compared to December 2011. Exports of this commodity can be irregular, affected by the timing of shipments and the amount of crude oil that is kept in New Zealand to be refined locally. The December 2011 value of $240 million is the highest since 2008.

Graph, Crude oil exports, monthly values and quantities, December 2006 to December 2012.

Other key changes in commodity export values

By commodity group, other key changes in export values for December 2012 compared with December 2011:

  • Milk powder, butter, and cheese fell $71 million (5.3 percent). Whole milk powder and butter led the fall, partly offset by a rise in cheese.
  • Prefabricated buildings fell $30 million (97 percent).
  • Logs, wood, and wood articles rose $39 million (17 percent), led by pinus radiata logs.

Exports to Australia show largest decrease

In December 2012, the value of exports to the following countries fell:

  • Australia – down $182 million (19 percent), led by crude oil exports
  • Venezuela – down $80 million (85 percent), due to whole milk powder
  • Japan – down $69 million (24 percent), over a range of commodities.

China showed the largest increase, up $182 million (34 percent). Whole milk powder led the increase, followed by meat and edible offal.

The United States showed the second-largest increase, up $53 million (15 percent), led by frozen boneless beef.  

Imports fall 10 percent in December month

In the December 2012 month, imported goods were valued at $3.6 billion, down $403 million (10 percent) from December 2011.

Petroleum and products fall 31 percent

The value of petroleum and products fell $236 million (31 percent) in December 2012 compared with December 2011. This was mainly due to a decrease in the value of crude oil. Import shipments of crude oil tend to fluctuate by country of origin, which causes large changes in quantities and values.

Other key changes in commodity import values:

  • aircraft and parts fell $175 million, led by helicopters and large aircraft
  • vehicles rose $49 million, led by new diesel motor cars and goods vehicles.

Imports by country of origin

The value of imports from the following countries fell in December 2012, compared with December 2011:

  • France – down $175 million (68 percent), due to helicopters and large aircraft, down $166 million (89 percent)
  • Singapore – down $135 million (53 percent), due to regular motor spirit and diesel
  • Saudi Arabia – down $118 million (55 percent), due to crude oil
  • China – down $35 million (5.5 percent), led by mobile telephones.

The value of imports from the following countries rose in December 2012, compared with December 2011: 

  • Malaysia – up $60 million (90 percent), led by crude oil
  • Thailand – up $49 million (68 percent), led by new petrol and diesel motor cars
  • Korea – up $47 million (63 percent), led by motor spirit
  • Brunei – up $31 million (49 percent), due to crude oil.

December 2012 trade balance in surplus

In the December 2012 month, there was a trade surplus of $486 million (12 percent of exports). This compares with an average deficit of $49 million (1.5 percent of exports) over the previous five December months. The latest surplus is the largest for a December month as a percentage of exports since December 1991.

Graph, Merchandise trade balance, monthly, December 2006 to December 2012.

Key movements for the December 2012 year

In the year ended December 2012, merchandise exports were valued at $46 billion, down $1.7 billion (3.5 percent) from the December 2011 year.

The value of merchandise imports in the December 2012 year was $47 billion, up $339 million (0.7 percent) from the December 2011 year.

For the December 2012 year, there was an annual trade deficit of $1.2 billion (2.6 percent of exports). This compares with an average deficit of 4.9 percent of exports over the previous five December years, although there were surpluses in the December 2010 and December 2011 years.

Fall in exports to Australia almost offset by rise in exports to China

By country, the largest movements in the value of exports for the December 2012 year were:

  • Australia – down $1.0 billion (9.2 percent), led by crude oil and mechanical machinery and equipment.
  • Japan – down $229 million (6.7 percent), led by unwrought aluminium, down $168 million.
  • China – up $975 million (17 percent), led by milk powder, butter, and cheese, up $391 million.
  • The United States – up $245 million (6.1 percent), led by frozen boneless beef, up $107 million.

By commodity group, the largest movements in the value of exports for the December 2012 year were:

  • Milk powder, butter, and cheese, down $473 million (4.0 percent). The largest contributors were butter, anhydrous milk fat, and whole milk powder. Cheese partly offset the fall.
  • Crude oil, down $430 million (19 percent).
  • Meat and edible offal, down $363 million (6.6 percent), due to a fall in sheep meat.
  • Casein and caseinates recorded the largest increase, up $115 million (15 percent).

Vehicles, parts, and accessories records the largest increase in imports

By commodity group, the largest movements in the value of imports for the December 2012 year were:

  • Vehicles, parts, and accessories had the largest increase, up $827 million (19 percent), led by new petrol and diesel motor cars, up $550 million.
  • Mechanical machinery and equipment had the next-largest increase, up $407 million (7.2 percent), led by boring and sinking machinery.
  • Aircraft and parts had the largest offsetting decrease, down $886 million (55 percent).
  • Electrical machinery and equipment was the second-largest decrease, down $154 million (3.8 percent).

The value of imports from the following countries had the largest movements:

  • Oman – up $948 million, and Brunei, up $750 million, due to crude oil.
  • Korea – up $355 million (24 percent), led by regular motor spirit.
  • Russia had the largest decrease in imports, down $922 million (77 percent), mainly due to crude oil, down $921 million.
  • The United States – down $639 million (13 percent), due to aircraft and parts. 

Exchange rate movements

According to the Reserve Bank’s trade weighted index (TWI), the New Zealand dollar was 1.2 percent higher in December 2012 than in November 2012, and 8.3 percent higher than in December 2011.

The TWI rose 1.3 percent in the December 2012 quarter, compared with the September 2012 quarter. The TWI was 7.1 percent higher in the December 2012 quarter than it was in the same quarter in 2011. 

Graph, Trade weighted index, monthly, December 2006 to December 2012.  

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