Although the attention this morning was on the election of Donald Trump as US President the RBNZ cut the OCR to 1.75% with a mild easing bias of “numerous uncertainties remain, particularly in respect of the international outlook, and policy may need to adjust accordingly”.
It is expected that the OCR will remain at this level in the near future with inflation expected to be back within the 1-3% Policy Target Agreement (PTA) by the end of January next year – see graph from ASB Bank. The reason for this is that:
- Dairy prices have recovered considerably.
- The labour market is tightening.
- Growth is running at an above-trend pace.
- The OCR is already at an expansionary rate and the economy.
Could there be another cut in the OCR? There would be pressure if the following eventuated:
- there is a strengthening of the NZ dollar,
- increasing bank funding costs,
- any further weakness in inflation expectations,
- any deterioration in the global growth outlook.
The change of US Presidency will also be a wildcard over the longer term, with its mix of potential fiscal stimulus and trade protectionism. Trump has already signaled that he is not keen to sign TPP and he wants to reopen the NAFTA – North America Free Trade Agreement. Furthermore, he might take umbrage on the Chinese with their manipulation of the Yuan to advantage its exports and put a large tariff on its goods coming into the US. For New Zealand it may mean that they have to go down the bi-lateral agreement option in order to increase trade.
Other than the US election, Graeme Wheeler needs to be aware of the following:
- Theresa May has indicated she wants to trigger Article 50 by May 2017 – it is very unclear what the process will be and the negotiating strategy of both the UK and the EU. This could have implications for NZ trade.
- In China the increasing of centalised power of the President.
- China has a huge amount of corporate debt relative to GDP – see graph below.
- Brazil is still in recession
- Russia still has issues in the Middle East
Last Thursday it was no real surprise that the RBNZ cut the official cash rate to 2%. With this cut you would have expected some fall in the value of the $NZ but instead it appreciated. So why did the $NZ appreciate? Graeme Wheeler was interviewed by NZ Herald reporter Liam Dann and explained to him that we live in a phenomenal situation. Global interest rates have been incredible low especially in countries like Japan, the UK and Australia – see table below. Add to that the impact of quantitive easing since 2009 and negative interest rates in countries which account for 25% of world GDP and you have a very unusual situation.
Some key assumptions from the RBNZ are that:
The global economy will start to pick-up which will mean that there will be less pressure on the NZ$ as investors look to other currencies to invest in. Remember that the NZ$ is the 10th most traded currency in the world and at uncertain times in the global economy it is seen as safe place to ‘park’ your money. This therefore increases the demand for NZ$’s appreciating its value.
Also the growth of the domestic economy with GDP expanding by 2.4 percent over the year ended in the March 2016 quarter, could mean a rise in inflationary expectations which should bring the inflation rate closer to the 2% mid point method in the policy target agreement. However this is a drop from 3.2% from the previous year.
According to Stephen Toplis of the BNZ
Clearly, the NZD is already higher than anticipated and inflation expectations could well be constrained for longer as annual headline inflation falls, potentially, sub-zero. It was also interesting that the RBNZ did not repeat its upside scenario for interest rates due to higher house prices. This reaffirms the Bank’s easing bias.
All things considered then, and noting there is still significant uncertainty as to the exact way ahead, we can reasonably comfortably conclude that:
– There will be at least one more rate cut;
– The balance of risk is for even more;
– The cash rate is going to be at least as low as it is now for a long time;
– Inflation is likely to continue surprising to the downside in the near term;
– Only when the rest of the world plays ball will the NZD wilt.
The impact of Brexit on the New Zealand economy should be limited when you consider the following statistics:
- 3.5% of total exports from NZ go to the UK – mainly sheep and wine.
- 2.7% of total imports from the UK to NZ – mainly transport goods
- 6.7% of all short-term visitor arrivals come from the UK
When the UK joined the EEC (as it was then know as) in 1973 there was a major shift away from trade with the Commonwealth. However New Zealand has been able to move away from the traditional dependency of the Commonwealth to become increasingly integrated to the Asia Pacific region.
Reserve Bank of New Zealand
The RBNZ is a good position even with a record low OCR of 2.25% which paradoxically is among the highest in the developed world. By not being aggressive with OCR cuts the RBNZ has the ammunition to stimulate aggregate demand further which is in contrast to the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan who are in negative territory. With the turmoil in Europe over Brexit the US Fed will most likely hold off on a rate hike to ease the pressure on markets – it may even cut the US Fed rate.
Gold and Sterling – US$ rate
The graph below shows the reaction to the Brexit – GBP drops significantly against the US$ and gold, as a safe investment, appreciates in value. The uncertainty that surrounds Brexit saw more investors buy gold, which rose to about $1,315 an ounce on June 24th, up by 4.7% on the previous day. This was the largest increase since the global financial crisis in 2008. The rise was in stark contrast to the plunging pound, which tumbled to its lowest level in 30 years.
Below is video from the FT looking at Five Consequences of the UK’s exit form the EU.
The 0.1% inflation rate in New Zealand has largely been attributed to the 50% drop in oil prices since the start of last year – see chart. Although oil prices are referred to as a volatile item they have been low for sometime and are expected to remain subdued. Lower fuel costs have reduced prices for services such as air travel, and have dampened prices on shop floors as the distribution costs for retail items have declined.
However low inflation doesn’t just reflect movements in the price of oil. Even excluding petrol prices, inflation has been below 1% for most of the past year, and it’s set to remain low through 2016. The weak inflation figure has also been due to the low global inflation holding prices down and with the trend likely to continue for some time given the deterioration in global trade and widespread falls in commodity prices. Add to this the slowing growth of the Chinese economy and with its importance to global growth (see chart) you have a serious threat of deflation. This is particularly a concern if the Chinese authorities decide to further devalue their currency – the Renminbi. The RBNZ will have a tough job ahead of it to generate a sustained increase in inflation.
Today Graeme Wheeler the RBNZ governor announced at 0.25% cut in the OCR – now 2.25%. He listed the following reasons for the cut:
- Significant fall in inflationary expectations. The RBNZ has forecast that inflation will only reach 0.5% by September this year and 2% in March 2018. Since the GFC in 2008 weak inflation has been prevalent in the world economy and with the collapse in oil prices it has got weaker in the second half of last year.
- Globally there is also decline in core inflation – a measure of inflation that excludes certain items that face volatile price movements. Therefore there is little or no imported inflation to talk about. A depreciation of the $NZ could mean an increase in the price of imports but would make New Zealand exports more price competitive – something that Graeme Wheeler is keen on given the weakness of New Zealand export prices.
- A decline in the global outlook – interest rate cuts in Japan, EU and the UK accompanied by weaker growth in China. See graph below of Central Bank rates.
Surprisingly enough he said that the lower Fonterra milk payout was not a major factor in the bank’s decision as it was just a reflection of weaker global demand. Graeme Wheeler did suggest that one more rate cut might be on the cards – ‘monetary policy will continue to be accommodative’
Below is a very informative video from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand about smoothing out the boom bust cycles in the New Zealand economy. There are some notes that follow which have been edited from the transcript.
Objectives macro prudential policy.
- To build resilience of the financial system so that it can cope with the business cycle if it turns from boom to bust.
- To be proactive in dampening the risk to begin with. This could include dampen the growth of credit, house prices or other asset prices. An example of this was in New Zealand in the late 1980’s – share market crash and the plunge in commercial property prices.
Macro Prudential Tool Kit – 4 Tools
1. Counter-cyclical capital buffer
This is where the banks are required to hold an extra margin of capital during the boom part of the cycle so that if the boom turns to bust the banks have an extra margin of capital that they can then call on to meet loan losses.
2. Sectorial capital overlay
This is very similar to a counter-cyclical capital buffer but it is about holding extra capital against a particular sector that the banks might be leaning to, for example the household sector, the farming sector, or potentially the commercial property sector.
3. Loan to value ratio for residential housing lending
This is a limit on the amount of high loan to value ratio lending or low deposit lending that the banks are able to do for the household sector. High LVR lending potentially fuels rapid house price growth and so that might be another reason why you would use that particular instrument.
4. Core funding ratio
This is a tool that has been a permanent fixture for the banks. There are a number of reasons why the core funding ratio might change. Potentially if the banks are facing an increase in risk, the Reserve Bank could require them to hold more core funding, funding that would be more likely to remain in the system during a downturn. By holding more of that stable funding, they’d be less likely to stop lending in a downturn because the funding would remain in the system.
Boom bust cycles are cycles in the economy and in the financial system are of course a fact of life. Macro-prudential policy certainly won’t prevent those cycles from occurring. What it will do is provide some cushioning to the cycle. It will hopefully clip the highs and the lows to some extent so that the flow of credit and the flow of financial services in the economy continue through time. It’s not about preventing the cycle or dampening it completely. It’s about taking some of the extremes out of the cycle.
Just had a great day at the RBNZ for the Monetary Policy Statement this morning – as you may know the RBNZ dropped interest rates by 25 basis points. Below is a bit of humour as to how they arrived at their decision.
And they say we are not thinking practically!