A big increase in exports to China has seen New Zealand record a merchandise trade surplus of NZ$414 million for February - which was considerably higher than expected.
Statistics New Zealand said the value of exported goods rose NZ$290 million (8%) to NZ$3.9 billion in February 2013, compared with February 2012.
This was led by an increase in exports to China, up NZ$259 million (49%).
"Milk powder, pine logs, and sheep meat led the rise in exports to China," industry and labour statistics manager Louise Holmes-Oliver said. "China drove the overall rise in exports."
The increase in exports to China was led by whole milk powder, up NZ$106 million (80%), with quantities up 99%. Pinus radiata logs, up NZ$43 million, and sheep meat, up NZ$38 million, also contributed to the increase.
The value of imported goods rose NZ$86 million (2.%) to NZ$3.5 billion. Consumption goods led the rise, up NZ$90 million, while capital goods fell NZ$29 million, and intermediate goods fell NZ$15 million.
The trade surplus of NZ$414 million represented 11% of exports.
February months have been in surplus since 2007.
For the year ended February 2013, there was an annual trade deficit of NZ$1.1 billion (2.4% of exports). Eight of the last 10 February years have had trade deficits, but there were surpluses in the February 2011 and February 2012 years.
After removing seasonal effects, exports increased 16% in February 2013, compared with January 2013. Milk powder, butter, and cheese led this increase. Seasonally adjusted imports rose 3.9% in February 2013.
The trend for exports is just 0.7% lower than its highest-ever peak, of November 2011. The trend for imports has shown little change in recent months.
In February 2013, the value also rose for exports to: United States – up NZ$47 million (13%), led by casein and caseinates, Singapore – up NZ$41 million (70%), led by crude oil and partly refined petroleum, Japan – up NZ$21 million (12%), led by wood pulp and cheese, Korea – up $20 million (19%), over a range of commodities.
Conversely there was a fall in value of exports to: Australia – down NZ$73 million (9.2%), led by crude oil and mechanical machinery, France – down NZ$28 million (42%), led by motor boats, India – down $23 million (35%), over a range of commodities and the United Kingdom – down NZ$20 million (14%), led by sheep meat.