Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Election 2011: Polls over, no time to waste

In the shadow of a faltering global economy the business community wanted certainty from the election result - and has got it. Photo / Greg Bowker
In the shadow of a faltering global economy the business community wanted certainty from the election result - and has got it. Photo / Greg Bowker

Monday morning, an election victory in the bag, beer bottles and pizza boxes in the recycling bin but already Prime Minister John Key is under pressure to get cracking.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett says there is no time for the Government to bask in the glory of its victory.

"The business community has signalled it wants a no-nonsense government that gets back on the job of governing without the distraction of inter-party squabbles and personality politics," Barnett said.

In the shadow of the euro crisis and a faltering global economy the business community wanted certainty from the election result and has got it.

ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said the election had delivered a pretty clear mandate.

"The uncertainty issue we can kick for touch," Bagrie said.

"I think they come to the table with a fair bit of credibility so I think markets are going to look at it as okay."

However, when markets opened today attention would turn to what happened over the weekend in Europe.

The eurozone debt crisis last week reached the door of economic powerhouse Germany which was unable to raise as much money as it wanted in a bond auction, Belgium was downgraded by ratings agency Standard & Poor's and at the weekend Italy had to pay record rates at a bond auction.

Bagrie said it was important to maintain the confidence and credibility of markets and business.

"What's going on in Europe is a reminder at the moment that you need to stick to your fiscal austerity script and I'd expect them to be reasonably clear about that."

The global and the New Zealand economies needed to reduce debt, Bagrie said.

"New Zealand's got a lot of levers it can pull, it's just a question of how quickly we can give them a damn good rip and some of them are going to be politically sensitive."

Developing the economy was always a more palatable way to fix the balance sheet than extreme austerity, he said.

Market commentator Arthur Lim said the business sector would be happy.

"They would have preferred I guess a more decisive victory for National but the fact that National has got a workable majority with its coalition partners will mean business as usual," Lim said.

"I think with the uncertainty of the election out of the way I would expect the market to take heart and settle down and start focusing on the international picture."

BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said National's election win would provide stability for companies, but the Government needed to quickly execute its policies, such as welfare reform, upskilling workers and improving competitiveness for businesses.

"The point is let's not wait to January or February to start - let's get on," O'Reilly said.

But he said the Government could face a tough time enacting its policies, as this country's relatively strong economic performance meant many New Zealanders did not fully understand how dire the global economic situation was.

"The problem with that is that it's much harder for everybody to grasp the fact that if we want to take advantage of the nice position that we're in, we're going to require some quite tough action from government." O'Reilly said.

ExportNZ executive director Catherine Beard said it was positive that the Government could continue working towards securing free trade agreements with emerging economic giants such as India and Russia.

"We think Trade Minister [Tim] Groser has done a pretty outstanding job in that space," Beard said.

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Certainty expected to lift markets

Buoyed by National's election victory, the New Zealand dollar is likely to gain ground against the greenback today, says Kevin O'Sullivan, head of financial markets at Auckland's OMFinancial.

He said the kiwi could open half a cent higher against the US dollar this morning, with the market viewing the ballot box success of Prime Minister John Key as positive.

On Friday, the currency closed at US73.8c, 15 per cent below the post-float record of US87.4 it reached in August.

Grant Williamson, a director at sharebrokers Hamilton Hindin Greene, said the election result would be positive for the stock market, particularly as the partial sales of state-owned energy firms and Air New Zealand looked more certain.

"The good thing is we can get a National-led coalition established very much straight away," Williamson said. "I think they will be fiscally responsible, which is exactly what the markets are looking for."

O'Sullivan said National's win was positive for equities, but he did not expect the NZX to react as strongly as the currency.

"The interesting thing to watch will be if anything happens with the interest rate market - whether they start pricing in any more [official cash rate] hikes or anything like that."

Shane Solly of Mint Asset Management said the fact there would be no change would be viewed positively by markets.

"Investors were looking for signs of certainty," he said.

- NZ Herald

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