NZ manufacturing sales climb 0.2%

New Zealand manufacturing sales rose for the first time in five quarters, led by increased production in the meat and dairy industries.

New Zealand manufacturing sales rose for the first time in five quarters, led by increased production in the meat and dairy industries.

According to Statistics New Zealand, sales adjusted for inflation gained 0.2 percent in the three months ended March 31 from the previous quarter. Meat and dairy sales surged 23 percent.

Excluding those categories, manufacturing contracted a record 6.5 percent.

Twelve of 15 industries recorded declines, adding to signs that New Zealand’s economy shrank for the fifth straight quarter, extending the most prolonged recession in more than three decades.

The Reserve Bank’s Governor Alan Bollard estimates the economy contracted 1 percent in the first three months of 2009, the biggest decline since 1998, and said a strong currency was “unhelpful” for exports.

Senior NZ economists describe the manufacturing sector as “under duress”, with the high New Zealand dollar doing the sector no favors. The NZ dollar has gained 22 percent against the U.S. currency in the past three months.

While the Statistics NZ report revealed dairy export volumes surging in the quarter, boosting total manufacturing, manufacturing of transport equipment, which includes the boat building industry, slumped 33 percent.

Output from sawmills and panel plants also declined. Sales when price changes are included fell 0.9 percent from the fourth quarter, today’s report showed. Sales values excluding meat and dairy fell 5.9 percent.

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