New Zealand wholesale trade rose for the eighth consecutive quarter in the first three months of this year, although the gain was the weakest result in two years as half of the industries registered falls.

Seasonally adjusted sales advanced 0.1 per cent in the March quarter, following a 2.9 per cent rise in the December quarter, and marking the weakest reading since the March 2016 quarter, when sales values were flat, Statistics New Zealand said.

Wholesale trade covers intermediary transactions between manufacturers and consumers, which feeds into the national accounts and is used by economists to predict wider economic activity. In the latest period, three wholesale industries recorded gains and three recorded falls.

The largest industry increase was in "other goods wholesaling", up a seasonally adjusted 3.3 per cent from the December quarter, Stats NZ said. Other goods wholesaling includes clothing and footwear, pharmaceutical and toiletry goods, and paper products. Basic materials wholesaling had the largest decrease, down 1.7 per cent in the March quarter following a 6.5 per cent jump in the December quarter. Basic material includes other agricultural products, hardware goods, metal and mineral, petroleum and timber wholesaling.


Wholesale sales values for motor vehicles and parts, including cars and trucks, fell 2.1 per cent in the March quarter, after a 6.4 per cent rise in the December quarter, the statistics agency said. Actual wholesale trade sales of $24.83 billion in the March quarter were up 6 per cent from the same period in 2017. The total value of wholesale stocks held at March 31 was $12.01b, up 10 per cent from a year earlier.