Inflation forecasts up slightly in survey

By Jonathan Underhill

Graeme Wheeler may be prepared to wait to cut the OCR while he eyes more measures to cool a resurgent housing market. Picture / Mark Mitchell
Graeme Wheeler may be prepared to wait to cut the OCR while he eyes more measures to cool a resurgent housing market. Picture / Mark Mitchell

New Zealand inflation expectations rose slightly in the Reserve Bank's latest quarterly survey, after the previous survey's surprisingly weak outcome, and remained well below the mid-point of the central bank's target range.

Expectations for inflation one year out rose to 1.22 per cent from 1.09 per cent in the previous survey, which was the lowest reading since 1994, while the two-year ahead figure barely budged at 1.64 per cent from 1.63 per cent.

Yesterday's survey was closely watched because the Reserve Bank cut the official cash rate to 2.25 per cent within three weeks of the last survey, published on February 16, which showed falling expectations for price pressures.

Traders and economists are now trying to gauge the likelihood of an OCR cut at the June 9 monetary policy statement, with some saying governor Graeme Wheeler may be prepared to wait until August while he considers further measures to cool a resurgent housing market.

"The RBNZ will be somewhat uncomfortable with the lack of pick-up in two-year inflation expectations, as well as falling longer-term expectations," said Kate Mundy, an economist at ASB Bank. "We continue to expect the RBNZ will cut the OCR again in June and August, with risks slightly skewed to a later move."

Wheeler stopped short of announcing any specific new measures to tackle heat in the housing market, that has spilled over from Auckland into other regions in the six-monthly Financial Stability Report last week, but said the bank was "closely monitoring developments to assess whether further financial policy measures would be appropriate".

The central bank said it was considering a new loan-to-income restriction but gave no timetable for introducing such a measure.

The survey showed expectations fell for the 90-day bank bill rate both for the end of the current quarter and one year out to 2.27 per cent and 2.23 per cent, from 2.62 per cent and 2.52 per cent respectively three months ago.

Annual gross domestic product one year out is seen at 2.24 per cent, down from 2.43 per cent in the previous survey.

The two-year-out rate fell to 2.33 per cent from 2.56 per cent.

Firms surveyed see the Kiwi dollar at US65.90c next quarter, up from an expectation of US63.2c in the previous survey. The kiwi is seen at US65.5c one year out, up from US62.1c.

The kiwi fell after the survey was released, having climbed to US68.33c cents immediately before. The kiwi was trading at US68.13c last night.

- BusinessDesk

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