New Zealand reported a trade surplus in December as exports of milk powder, butter and cheese reached records.

The trade balance was a surplus of $338 million in the month of December, Statistics New Zealand said. This compared to a median forecast of a $100 million deficit in a survey by Reuters.

The surplus compared to a deficit of $307 million in November, which was originally reported as a deficit of $308 million.

The value of exports rose 13 per cent to $4.3 billion in December from the same month a year earlier, while imports fell 1.6 per cent to $4 billion.

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"Milk powder, butter and cheese exports reached a record high in December 2011, up $329 million to $1.4 billion.

"This increase was led by exports of unsweetened whole milk powder, which also reached a new high, up $171 million, or 37 per cent, with quantities up 30 per cent," Statistics New Zealand said.

The annual trade balance was a surplus of $1.1 billion.

Exports to Australia increased 30 per cent, but imports from the US decreased 39 per cent, mainly due to the importing of a large aircraft in December a year earlier.

There was a trade surplus of $698 million in the December quarter.