New Zealand posted a merchandise trade deficit of NZ$340 million in January, Statistics New Zealand said on Thursday.

That beat expectations for a shortfall of NZ$549 million following the NZ$547 million surplus in December.

Exports climbed an annual 8.8 percent or NZ$382 million in January to NZ$4.73 billion, exceeding forecasts for NZ$4.44 billion after coming in at NZ$5.54 billion a month earlier.

The leading contributor to the rise was exports of meat and edible offal, up NZ$187 million (31 percent) to NZ$800 million. Milk powder, butter, and cheese rose NZ$115 million (7.7 percent) to NZ$1.6 billion.

Exports to China were up NZ$302 million (31 percent) to NZ$1.3 billion, led by a rise in milk powder, butter, and cheese (up NZ$143 million); beef (up NZ$77 million); and logs, wood, and wood articles (up NZ$32 million).

Exports to the United States were up NZ$69 million (16 percent) to NZ$489 million. The rise was led by casein and caseinates (up NZ$23 million) and beef (up NZ$24 million).

Imports were down 4.0 percent on year or NZ$212 million to NZ$5.07 billion versus expectations for NZ$5.00 billion, which would have been roughly unchanged from the previous month.

This fall was led by vehicles, parts, and accessories, down NZ$116 million (17 percent) to NZ$591 million. Fertilizers also fell NZ$51 million (48 percent) to NZ$57 million.

On an annual basis, goods exports rose NZ$3.0 billion (5.2 percent) to NZ$60.3 billion, marking the first time it has reached NZ$60 billion. Goods imports rose NZ$400 million (0.6 percent) to NZ$64.2 billion. The annual trade balance was a deficit of NZ$3.9 billion.

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