New Zealand posted a merchandise trade deficit of NZ$86 million in March, Statistics New Zealand said on Friday – representing 1.8 percent of exports.
That missed expectations for a surplus of NZ$275 million following the NZ$172 million surplus in February.
Exports were up NZ$265 million or 5.8 percent on year to NZ$4.9 billion.
The total value of butter exports rose NZ$95 million (76 percent) to NZ$221 million, with quantity up 47 percent compared with the same month of the previous year.
Forestry products rose NZ$70 million (18 percent) to NZ$460 million, led by a rise in untreated logs to China (up NZ$54 million).
Milk powder values were little changed in the month (up 0.8 percent), and the quantity exported rose 16 percent.
Imports spiked NZ$612 million or 14.0 percent on year to NZ$4.9 billion.
Petroleum and products rose NZ$297 million (88 percent) to NZ$634 million in March, the largest increase since a NZ$453 million rise in December 2013. Crude oil rose NZ$198 million, while petrol and diesel rose NZ$94 million this month.
The imports value of crude oil in March 2017 was the lowest since the February 2009 month.
For the first quarter of 2018, the trade deficit was NZ$1.8 billion.
Imports were valued at NZ$15.3 million, down 0.1 percent on quarter, and total exports were valued at NZ$13.5 billion, down 5.8 percent.
Also on Friday, the latest survey from ANZ Bank showed that consumer confidence in New Zealand tumbled in April as the bank’s index plummeted 5.9 percent on month to a score of 120.5.
That follows the 0.2 percent monthly increase to 128.0 in the previous month.