New Zealand's trade deficit narrowed more than expected last month as the nation exported more milk powder, butter and cheese while imports fell.

The deficit was $199 million in September, down from a revised gap of $1.23 billion in August, according to Statistics New Zealand. The annual deficit was $1.54 billion, from $2.1 billion the previous month. A monthly deficit of $750 million was expected for an annual gap of $2.12 billion, based on a Reuters forecast.

The New Zealand dollar recently traded at 84.13 US cents, from 83.93 cents immediately before the 10:45am release of the report.

Exports in September rose 17 per cent to $3.8 billion, led by a 52 per cent rise in the value of milk powder, butter and cheese which were at their highest level for a September month due to increased exports to China.


Australia was the biggest destination for New Zealand exports, with the country taking $848 million of goods in September, up 4.7 per cent from the same month a year earlier. It was closely followed by China which took $815 million of goods, an increase of 74 per cent from September last year. The US is New Zealand's third-largest export market, taking $282 million of goods.

Imports to New Zealand fell 1.2 per cent in September to $4 billion, led by a 28 per cent decline in the value of petroleum and products.

China was the biggest source country for imports in the month, with the value of goods supplied up 10 per cent to $790 million from September last year. Australia remained the second-largest market, although the value of goods slid 9.7 per cent to $530 million. Imports from the US jumped 21 per cent to $407 million.