19 Jun 2014

Current account deficit tipped to widen

8:35 am on 19 June 2014

New Zealand's current account position is likely to deteriorate from now but it probably won't become as large as it was during the last economic upswing.

The country chalked up a record current account surplus of $1.4 billion in the March quarter, thanks to surging dairy exports and the peak season for tourism.

It's only sixth time in a decade that the country has recorded a quarterly surplus.

The same factors helped push the current account deficit for the year ended March to $6.3 billion, or 2.8 percent of economic growth, bang-on the median of economists' forecasts.

Westpac economist Michael Gordon said the March quarter outcome was probably as good as it got for the current economic cycle.

He said the prices for some of New Zealand's key export commodities have already dropped from their peak.

But Mr Gordon said over the next couple of years there was still likely to be a lift in the import of goods, but that was just part of the economic cycle as the country grew, particularly with the growth in construction activity.

He said that will see the current account deficit widen again, but it was not likely to go as high as 8 or 9 percent as in previous decades and would be more likely to end up at 4 or 5 percent.