New Zealand inflation expectations for the next two years have increased, a Reserve Bank survey shows, likely adding to the view that the central bank may lift its projected track for interest rates in Thursday's monetary policy statement.
Expectations for inflation one year out rose to 1.56 per cent compared to 1.29 per cent in the Reserve Bank's last survey three months ago. The two-year ahead figure rose to 1.92 per cent from 1.68 per cent.
The Reserve Bank releases its monetary policy statement on February 9 and is expected to hold the official cash rate steady at 1.75 per cent. Speculation has been growing, however, that recent signs of inflation may lead it to be slightly more hawkish. New Zealand's central bank is fairly unique globally in that it publicly forecasts where it expects interest rates to go over a three-year period. In November, it cut rates by 25 basis points to 1.75 per cent and forecast they would remain at that level until the end of 2019.
However, the consumers price index rose 0.4 per cent in the three months ended December 31 for an annual pace of 1.3 per cent, moving back into the central bank's 1 per cent to 3 per cent target range for the first time in two years. That, coupled with higher inflation expectations, may lead it to signal an eventual rate hike. Most economists are expecting a rate hike sometime in 2018.
The 90-day bank bill rate, seen as a proxy for the OCR, is expected to be 2.02 per cent at the end of March 2017 and increase to 2.22 per cent by the end of December 2017. The rate was 1.97 per cent when the survey was taken, the Reserve Bank said.
Expectations for gross domestic product also continued to push higher. Year-ahead real GDP growth is seen jumping to 3.11 per cent from 2.75 per cent in the previous survey, while the 2-year-ahead rate was lifted to 2.88 per cent from 2.51 per cent. That's still slower than the 3.6 per cent pace in the year ended September.
The unemployment rate rose to 5.2 per cent in the fourth quarter but is expected to be 4.79 per cent in a year's time and 4.84 per cent in two years. Expectations for wage growth decreased to an annual pace of 2.14 per cent one year out versus 2.25 per cent in the prior survey. Two-year ahead growth expectations fell to 2.39 per cent from 2.48 per cent.
The kiwi dollar, meanwhile, is expected to fall back to 70 US cents by the end of June 2017 from a current 73.55. The rate is expected to be 68 cents by December. The local currency is seen at 94 cents by the end of June and to remain the same at the end of December. It is currently trading at 96.12 cents.