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Current account deficit remains stable - Stats NZ

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

New Zealand's seasonally adjusted current account deficit was steady at $2.6 billion in the March 2019 quarter, largely unchanged from the December 2018 quarter’s deficit, Stats NZ said today.

The current account balance records the value of New Zealand’s transactions with the rest of the world in goods, services, and income. It is an important indicator of the economy’s health. New Zealand has a current account deficit when we spend more than we earn from our transactions with the rest of the world.

The current account shortfall in the March 2019 quarter was slightly smaller than the previous quarter. This was mainly due to New Zealand making more from overseas investments, while foreign investors made less in New Zealand. This resulted in a narrower primary income deficit this quarter.

A smaller goods deficit was offset by a fall in the services surplus compared to last quarter. The overall effect on the current account was small.

"New Zealand's current account deficit has remained fairly stable over the past four quarters, compared with the volatility seen during the last decade," international statistics senior manager Peter Dolan said.

Significant global events can cause spikes in the current account balance as was seen during the global financial crisis in 2008/09 and the dairy price boom in 2013/14.

Net international investment position narrows

Our net international investment position represents the difference between New Zealand’s assets and liabilities with the rest of the world.

At 31 March 2019 our international assets were $269.2 billion, $10.0 billion larger than at 31 December 2018. Our international liabilities were $433.6 billion, up $6.0 billion. Since our international liabilities were larger than our international assets, this resulted in a net liability position of $164.4 billion, which was $4.0 billion smaller than at 31 December 2018.

"In the latest quarter there was a strong rebound in global share markets which saw increases in the value of both our assets and our liabilities," Mr Dolan said. "This follows the December 2018 quarter when share markets around the world fell and large market price changes decreased the value of our assets more than the value of our liabilities."

The smaller net liability position at 31 March 2019 was mainly due to changes in the valuation of New Zealand’s international assets and liabilities. Changes in market prices, exchange rates, and other valuations increased the value of our assets more than the value of our liabilities. Money moving in or out of New Zealand (net financial account flows) had a relatively small impact on the net international investment position this quarter.

Ratio of net international investment position to GDP - country comparison

New Zealand has invested much less overseas than overseas investors have in New Zealand, but as a share of GDP, the net international liability position is similar to Australia and the United States.


See Balance of payments and international investment position: March 2019 quarter video.

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