New Zealand's current account balance turned to a surplus in the first quarter as tourism drove up the services balance and foreigners earned less from their local investments.
The current account surplus was $1.3 billion in the first quarter, from a deficit of $2.89 billion a year earlier, Statistics New Zealand said. The figures aren't seasonally adjusted.
The goods balance turned to a surplus of $606 million from a deficit of $1.37 billion as imports fell faster than exports.
The services balance was a surplus of $2.8 billion from a surplus of $847 million three months earlier, while the primary income balance, which mainly reflects investment income, was a deficit of $1.7 billion, narrower than the $2.3 billion gap recorded in the fourth quarter of 2015.
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In the year, the current account deficit was $7.5 billion, or 3 percent of gross domestic product, from a revised deficit of $8 billion, or 3.2 percent of GDP, in calendar 2015. Statistics New Zealand said. The improvement was driven by an increase in the services surplus and a decrease in the primary income deficit, it said.
"An increase in spending by international visitors to New Zealand drove the increase in the services surplus in the latest year," the government statistician said. "Spending by international visitors increased $2.2 billion in the year ended March 2016, to reach a record annual high in spending" of $13.3 billion, it said.
There was a $1.5 billion net inflow of investment in the first quarter as transactions of $4.3 billion increased New Zealand's international liabilities and transactions of $2.8 billion increased the nation's international assets.
New Zealand's net international liability position was $157 billion, or 63.1 percent of GDP at March 31, up from $151.9 billion, or 61.8 percent of GDP, at Dec. 31 and the largest net liability position since March 2009. Still, as a percentage of GDP, it was higher at March 31 last year at 63.5 percent.
The nation's net external debt position rose to $139.3 billion, or 56 percent of GDP as at March 31, up from $136.5 billion, or 55.5 percent of GDP three months earlier, the first increase since the fourth quarter of 2012.