New Zealand has outshone the world's major economies to top a Forbes list of the best countries for business.

After placing second last year, New Zealand leapt into first place thanks to its "transparent and stable business climate that encourages entrepreneurship".

American business magazine Forbes ranks 141 countries in its annual list by measuring them according to 11 metrics.

Although New Zealand was the smallest economy in its top 10, at $162 billion, it came first in four of the metrics, including personal freedom, investor protection, lack of red tape, and lack of corruption.


"New Zealand's economy is closely tied to Australia's, and both held up better than most during the global financial crisis," Forbes said.

"The downside to the resilience of its economy is that the New Zealand dollar has appreciated, making the country's agricultural exports more expensive."

It also noted that kiwi unemployment was at it the highest level since 1999.

Other factors in New Zealand's high ranking were its corporate tax rate cut last year and the NZX 50's 24 per cent rise in the past year.

Denmark's second-place ranking was down to its technology, trade freedom and property rights.

After Denmark was Hong Kong (3rd), Singapore (4th), and Canada (5th). The US dropped two places to 12th, just behind Australia in 11th.