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Economy Limps Out Of Recession As GDP Grows 0.2%

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The economy has edged out of recession, driven by service industries and energy production.

Stats NZ data shows gross domestic product -- the broad measure of economic growth -- rose 0.2 percent for the three months ended March, with annual growth of 0.3 percent.

The numbers were stronger than economists had expected and followed two quarters of contraction.

"There were a range of results at industry level with eight of the 16 industries rising this quarter," Stats NZ's Ruvani Ratnayake said.

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The main contributors to the gain were rental, hiring and real estate services, and increased electricity generation, but there was also a slight lift in retailing.

The biggest falls were in construction, business services and manufacturing, which was partly offset by increased dairy exports.

The growth in population resulted in each individual's share of the economy shrinking 0.3 percent during the quarter, the sixth consecutive quarterly fall. Annually, the per capita decline was 2.4 percent.

Household spending rose 1.6 percent for the quarter, but government spending was marginally lower.

Real gross national disposable income, a measure of the country's purchasing power, rose 0.9 percent for the quarter, but was still 1 percent lower than a year ago.

New Zealand first-quarter growth was better than Australia, but lagged that of most of the country's major trading partners.

Economists have said the Reserve Bank's high interest rates policy to get inflation under control has been the chief cause of the economic downturn and recessionary periods.

Forecasts for the rest of the year point to tepid growth at best, with cuts in interest rates seen as the necessary factor to help revive economic activity.

More to come.

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