Thursday, October 29, 2015

New Zealand maintains rate at it watches and waits

    New Zealand's central bank left its Official Cash Rate (OCR) steady at 2.75 percent, as expected by most economists, and confirmed that "some further reduction in the OCR seems likely" to ensure that inflation rises to the middle of the target range, with the timing of any move dependent on economic data.
    "It is appropriate at present to watch and wait," Graeme Wheeler, governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) said.
    The RBNZ has cut its rate by 75 basis points this year, most recently by 25 points in September when it also said that further easing of the key rate was likely, depending on economic data.
    Since the September policy decision, the New Zealand dollar has firmed, global dairy prices have risen and home prices in Auckland have continued to rise.
    Earlier this month Wheeler reiterated that the RBNZ was likely to cut rates again but underscored that he was wary of inflaming the housing market and wants to retain some room to ease policy further in the event of a global economic downturn.
    Economists viewed Wheeler's speech on Oct. 14 as signaling that the central bank would wait until its monetary policy review in December to cut rates again.
    "House price inflation in Auckland remains strong, posing a financial stability risk," Wheeler said today, adding that residential building is accelerating but it will take time to meet the supply shortfall.
    New Zealand's inflation rate was unchanged at 0.4 percent in the third quarter of the year, with the RBNZ expecting it to return to the 1-3 percent target range by early 2016 as the impact of the fall in oil prices drops out of the comparison and consumer prices adjust to the fall in the exchange rate from April to September.
    But since September, the exchange rate of the New Zealand dollar - known as the kiwi - has risen, which Wheeler said could dampen inflation and exports, leading to "a lower interest rate path than otherwise would be the case."
    After dropping from 1.30 to the U.S. dollar in April to almost 1.60 in September, the kiwi has firmed since late September to trade around 1.50 to the dollar today, down 14.7 percent this year.

    The Reserve Bank of New Zealand issued the following statement by its governor, Graeme Wheeler:

"The Reserve Bank today left the Official Cash Rate (OCR) unchanged at 2.75 percent.

Global economic growth is below average and global inflation is low despite highly stimulatory monetary policy. Financial market volatility has eased in recent weeks, but concerns remain about the prospects for slower growth in China and East Asia especially. Financial markets are also uncertain about the timing and effects of monetary policy tightening in the United States and possible easings elsewhere. 
The sharp fall in dairy prices since early 2014 continues to weigh on domestic farm incomes. However, growth in the services sector and construction remains robust, driven by net immigration, tourism, and low interest rates. Global dairy prices have risen in recent weeks, contributing to improved household and business sentiment. However, it is too early to say whether these recent improvements will be sustained. 
House price inflation in Auckland remains strong, posing a financial stability risk. While residential building is accelerating, it will take some time to correct the supply shortfall. The Government has introduced new tax requirements and the Reserve Bank’s new LVR restrictions on investor lending come into effect on 1 November. 
CPI inflation remains below the 1 to 3 percent target range, largely reflecting a combination of earlier strength in the New Zealand dollar and the 60 percent fall in world oil prices since mid-2014. 
Annual CPI inflation is expected to return well within the target range by early 2016, as the effects of earlier petrol price falls drop out of the CPI calculation and in response to the fall in the exchange rate since April. However, the exchange rate has been moving higher since September, which could, if sustained, dampen tradables sector activity and medium-term inflation. This would require a lower interest rate path than would otherwise be the case. 
Continued economic expansion is expected to result in some pick-up in non-tradables inflation, despite the moderating effects of strong labour supply growth. 
To ensure that future average CPI inflation settles near the middle of the target range, some further reduction in the OCR seems likely. This will continue to depend on the emerging flow of economic data. It is appropriate at present to watch and wait."


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