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NZ has first trade surplus in seven months

New Zealand had its first trade surplus in seven months in January as record-high commodity prices buoyed exports of milk powder and lumber, while imports fell to an 11-month low, according to Bloomberg.

Exports outpaced imports by NZ$11 million ($8 million) from a revised NZ$264 million deficit in December, the report said, citing Statistics New Zealand. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of six economists was for a NZ$25 million deficit.

Rising exports, which make up 30% of the economy, may help New Zealand’s economy this year after an earthquake in Christchurch that will likely subtract from growth. The magnitude 6.3 temblor struck the nation’s second-biggest city on Feb. 22, killing at least 147 people and reducing many central business district buildings to rubble.

“Encouragingly, export values are getting a head of steam up, reflecting record high commodity prices,” said Sharon Zöllner, a senior economist at ANZ National Bank Ltd. in Wellington, wrote in a report after the release. “This data is important in that it highlights that the fundamentals for the export sector remain strong.”

Exports rose 4.3 % from the year-earlier month to NZ$3.29 billion, today’s report showed. Imports were NZ$3.28 billion, the lowest since February last year.

Dairy exports, which make up a fifth of overseas sales, exceeded a billion local dollars for a second month, rising 9.8 % from the year-earlier month to NZ$1.04 billion.

Last week, Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd., the world’s largest dairy exporter, raised its forecast payment to New Zealand milk suppliers by 8.7 %, citing higher international prices.

More at Bloomberg