New or tighter rules on home lending on the cards as market regains momentum

Dealing with house price risks, low inflation and the dairy downturn are among the major challenges and goals outlined by the Reserve Bank in its Statement of Intent for the next three years.

Housing market imbalances feature as a key issue to monitor and there are further indications that more macro-prudential tools are being explored.

Housing was listed as an issue in both the monetary policy and financial stability section of the statement.

The Reserve Bank, led by governor Graeme Wheeler, argues that loan-to-value ratios (LVRs), including new restrictions for Auckland investors, are helping to contain financial system stability risks.


However, its notes that while Auckland house prices eased late last year there are signs they may be gathering momentum again and were also rising around the country.

"While house prices outside Auckland remain less stretched relative to income, continuation of this trend could present challenges for macro-prudential policy."

Exploring additional macro-prudential policy options is listed as an initiative to address this risk.

There is widespread speculation that the Reserve Bank will look to further tighten LVR rules later this year or introduce new tools such as debt-to-income ratios.

The latter move would require approval from the Government and may take some time to work through.

The other major issue on the financial stability front remained the dairy sector and the slump in global milk prices.

Banks were expected to experience a rise in non-performing loans.

The Reserve Bank had run stress tests to check the ability of the major banks to cope with the downturn.

It was also seeking comment from banks to ensure stress-testing around housing and agricultural lending risks were up-to-date and best practice.

Housing risk was just one of six major issues for attention on the monetary policy front. Inflation expectations topped that list.

The Reserve Bank has been criticised in the past year for allowing inflation to fall below the targeted band of 1-3 per cent.

It currently sits at an annual rate of 0.4 per cent. Very low inflation has become a major issue for many of the world's economies.

The Reserve Bank says it will monitor "whether inflation expectations fall further as a result of weak inflation and become embedded in price- and wage-setting behaviour".

An initiative to better understand the current drivers of low inflation was one of the three key work streams for the Reserve Bank's economics department this year, the statement notes.

The other issues for close attention with regards to monetary policy were the effect of China and other Asian economies on market volatility and the exchange rate, dairy prices, New Zealand's current high levels of net migration and weak world demand which was affecting oil and other import prices.

The Statement of Intent outlines three over-arching strategic priorities for the Reserve Bank.

These included enhancing the policy framework, improving infrastructure and reducing enterprise risk, and "continuing to strengthen the Bank's internal and external engagement".

The statement covers the Reserve Bank's financial position and organisational structure for the three years ahead.

It is projecting an operating surplus of $214.6 million for the year to June 30 next year.