23 Sep 2010

Current account deficit expected to narrow due to quake payments

7:37 am on 23 September 2010

ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley expects New Zealand's current account deficit to temporarily narrow, as foreign insurers make payments for the Canterbury earthquake.

The gap between what the country spends overseas and what it earns, was almost 9% of Gross Domestic Product at the end of 2008.

It has been gradually narrowing since, reaching 2.4% in the year to the end of March.

But latest figures show it widened to 3% of GDP, at the year to the end of June, as foreign-owned companies made larger profits, and foreign investors paid less tax.

Mr Tuffley expects the deficit to narrow again because of the Canterbury earthquake.

"That is largely because of all the foreign insurance and re-insurance payments, coming into the country to meet all the payments," he said.

"We would expect in the fourth quarter, or the first quarter next year, that we will see the current account temporarily narrow."

Mr Tuffley also expects the financial accounts, which records capital flows, to have strong gains in the coming quarters.

"For one part, the Earthquake Commission holds some of its funds in New Zealand shares," he said.

"It also holds Government bonds and the Government itself may have to issue some debt to cover part of the bill."