Jamie Gray

Jamie Gray is a business reporter for the New Zealand Herald and NZME. news service.

Quake region on way up

Bank 'Cantometer' shows Canterbury still has a way to go.

Construction is driving an increase in the 'Cantometer'. Photo / Christchurch Star
Construction is driving an increase in the 'Cantometer'. Photo / Christchurch Star

ASB Bank's newly-formulated indicator, the "Cantometer", suggests economic activity in Canterbury is improving after the earthquakes of 2010 and last year, but that the province has some way to go before it can claim a full recovery.

The Cantometer, a composite index designed by ASB to track Canterbury's post-earthquake recovery, showed that aggregate activity in the region was above pre-earthquake levels, with a positive reading of 0.1 for the month of November, driven mostly by construction.

The index has been set to zero in June 2010, before the first major quake struck on September 4. A positive number represents activity being above pre-earthquake levels.

ASB said construction activity in the region would have a significant effect nationally in the coming year.

Among the Cantometer's sub-indices, construction scored a positive 2.2 but the other categories - housing, employment, consumer spending and miscellaneous, were slightly negative.

ASB said the index was designed as a simple indicator of activity to give some insights into the recovery progress across different categories of economic activity, using a range of economic data, which is aggregated into a summary measure.

The Cantometer showed electricity consumption was still down on pre-earthquake levels, as was the number of guest nights available.

Following the earthquakes, activity in Canterbury fell sharply, but the index showed a large proportion of this post-earthquake disruption reversed relatively quickly.

"Over the past year, we have now seen recovery in most areas of the Canterbury economy," ASB Bank chief economist Nick Tuffley said.

Strong lifts in building consents and demand for ready-mix-concrete led this increase. Tuffley said the remaining indices remain below pre-earthquake levels.

"However, over recent months we have seen steady improvement in most indices. In particular, the continued recovery in permanent and long-term migration is an encouraging sign of increased population and demand in the region," Tuffley said.

"We expect Canterbury reconstruction activity to underpin the nationwide lift in residential construction over the coming year, with nationwide activity rising 18 per cent over the year to June 2013."

"However, we continue to expect the Reserve Bank to remain focused on global uncertainties and the elevated New Zealand dollar, and to leave the official cash rate unchanged at 2.5 per cent until September 2013."

- APNZ

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