The BNZ publish a report entitled “NZ at a Glance” which summarises the current state of the NZ economy. Here are some of the main points:
GDP – Construction is the main driver of growth over the next couple of years – mainly residential. Net exports is likely to take a hit as import penetration starts to build with as the economy recovers. GDP is forecast to increase to 3.6% in 2014 from 2.9% in 2013.
Unemployment – the current rate is 6.2% and the labour market is tightening with the increase in economic activity. Forecast to fall to 5.2% by March 2015. Tighter labour market will mean higher wage growth but also because of higher inflationary expectations as the economy recovers.
Inflation – quite subdued and the annual rate has been 1% or less over the last four quarters. A strong NZD, weakening commodity prices and low inflation globally are conspiring to offset domestic-demand driven price increases. Low inflation also becomes self-fulfilling to the extent that it moderates inflation expectations and price-setting behaviour elsewhere.
Current Account – The current account deficit appears to be stabilising in a 4.0% to 5.0% of GDP range. This is thanks largely to a resurgence in the commodity prices of the goods that New Zealand exports. This is a welcome development to the extent that it may appease nervous rating agencies for a year or so.
The New Zealand economic expansion is gaining in momentum. The rebuild of Christchurch is now building up a head of steam and this is supporting increasingly widespread confidence. Very low interest rates and a booming housing market are playing their part too. Eventually this will necessitate a response from the central bank but while annual inflation remains below 1.0% (and set to stay there for a while) it suggests that any such response might be some time in coming. Meanwhile, the NZD remains supported by money printing elsewhere and the relative strength of the economy here.