Earthquake blamed for tepid New Zealand growth

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake near Kaikoura last year caused a final-quarter economic slowdown in New Zealand

New Zealand's economic growth halved in the final quarter of 2016, official data showed Thursday, with experts saying the slowdown was likely a temporary blip caused by a huge earthquake.

Gross domestic product grew 0.4 percent in October-December, down from 0.8 in the previous quarter and well shy of the market's expected 0.7 percent.

The reporting period coincided with a 7.8-magnitude quake that hit the South Island on November 14, cutting road and rail links across the South Pacific nation's rural heartland.

Capital Economics analyst Kate Hickie said the tremor, centred on the seaside tourist town of Kaikoura, disrupted economic activity and forced a fall in exports.

"The 3.8 percent quarter-on-quarter drop in exports was probably due to the temporary closure of some ports following the Kaikoura earthquake," she said.

"That idea is supported by the fact that the decline was widespread, with export volumes falling in eight of the 10 goods categories."

Hickie said growth was likely to bounce back, citing strong construction figures (up 1.8 percent) and a 0.6 percent rise in retail trade and accommodation of the back of booming tourism.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce said despite the weak quarter New Zealand's economy still grew 3.1 percent in 2016, better than most developed nations.

“Our economy is successfully navigating a still challenging international environment... while growth has softened in this latest quarter, the continuing trend is consistent ongoing growth," he said.