20 Jun 2013

Modest growth in GDP in March

7:10 pm on 20 June 2013

The economy has expanded modestly, with the effects of the drought reining in growth. Gross domestic product grew 0.3% in the three months to March.

Statistics New Zealand said the economy grew for the ninth successive quarter, driven mainly by rebuilding of houses in Christchurch.

But Radio New Zealand's economics correspondent said the drought took its toll. Dairy farmers dried off cows earlier, resulting in lower agricultural activity.

That offset an increase in food processing from sheep and cattle being sent to the works early.

Household spending rose, while business investment and government expenditure fell.

Bank of New Zealand economist Doug Steel said that given recent volatility, the increase in the December quarter was a whopping 1.5%, the data clearly shows the underlying recovery is still intact.

ANZ Bank economist Mark Smith is picking another period of sluggish growth due to the effects of drought.

He said the effects of the drought will continue to ripple through the economy in coming quarters, particularly for the meat processing industry.

Mr Smith said farmers brought forward meat slaughtering which held up primary manufacture volumes and a sluggish second quarter is expected.

He said the pick-up in construction activity in Christchurch and Auckland will continue to drive stronger economic activity over the year.

On an annual basis, the economy grew 2.5%, to $212 billion.

Economists say the economy is continuing to pick up, led by the Canterbury rebuild, but the drought is expected to weigh on activity over the rest of the year.