Brian Fallow

The Economics Editor of the NZ Herald

Economy still trucking along despite interest rate rises

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

ANZ says its Truckometer indicator is still pointing to an economy trucking along at a solid clip.

The heavy traffic index, which reflects truck movements on 11 roads selected because they have historically given a good indication of economic activity at the time, rose 0.5 per cent last month, reversing half of a dip recorded in March.

The heavy traffic index had risen 2 per cent in the March quarter as a whole, suggesting the statisticians would report another quarter of growth around 1 per cent, ANZ economist Sharon Zollner said.

"However the six-month average, which also correlates reasonably well with quarterly growth, is suggesting a more modest rate."

The companion light traffic index, while it did not have such a reliable relationship with GDP, had done a pretty good job of picking the ebbs and flows of growth around six months ahead, she said. It rose 0.1 per cent last month on top of a 1.1 per cent rise in March.

For the March quarter as a whole the index rose more slowly than in the December 2013 quarter. Given the six-month lead to GDP out-turns, that suggested the September quarter would potentially be weaker than the current one.

"However the light traffic index is certainly not suggesting the economic expansion is going to run out of steam any time soon," Zollner said.

"It's pretty encouraging because this is the sort of indicator we will be looking at for the impact of the official cash rate hikes. Given it has such a long lead [to GDP], if the inevitable eventual slowdown is going to be domestically led, as opposed to a large external shock, then this is the sort of indicator it will show up in first," she said.

"We might be easing off a little bit, which wouldn't be surprising because we have had the big boost from the agricultural rebound and have settled into a glide path, but this certainly doesn't suggest the OCR rises we have seen so far have stopped people in their tracks.

"I suspect we will keep on trucking until the [rest of the] world throws some nails in our path."

- NZ Herald

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