Finishing off the Inflation external standard with my NCEA Level 2 class and came across an ASB Bank publication which outlines what the main drivers of inflationary pressure are in New Zealand. They list 5 categories which are shown below and note that housing and commodity prices are quite prevalent. This would suggest that the government are trying to get the RBNZ to target house prices.
Outlook It is forecast (ASB) that the CPI will rise to around 2.5% – cost-push and demand-pull factors with strong NZ$ being superseded by higher external costs and prices. The inflation target for the RBNZ is 1-3% with a target of 2% but the inflation figure above the midpoint should be treated the same as when inflation is below the midpoint. Therefore this does not mean that the RBNZ will necessarily raise interest rates.
Below is a useful flow chart for anyone studying monetary policy. Both the NCEA Level 3 and CIE A2 courses cover this topic.
Negative – lower interest rates might depress spending by some retirees who rely on interest income. But these counterproductive channels are small compared to the Positive – lower interest rates = a lower propensity to save and a higher propensity to spend.
The side effects of monetary policy. Falling interest rates = accelerating house prices = social problems and political anxiety. If RBNZ kept interest rates at around 8% as in the 2000s to prevent the house price = New Zealand in deflationary spiral.
The economic and social consequences of deflation would be far worse than the (undeniable) problems with rising house prices. The low inflation / falling interest rate dynamic of the past two decades has been a global phenomenon, ultimately caused by a global change in the balance between savings and investment. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand could not have prevented this global trend from affecting New Zealand interest rates without causing severe damage to the economy. In New Zealand, the most important transmission channels are asset prices and the exchange rate. Falling interest rates tend to push asset prices up, which stimulates consumer spending. Falling interest rates also tend to reduce the exchange rate, which generates inflation via the prices of internationally-traded goods and services.
Below is a useful flow diagram from the ANZ bank which adds Large Scale Asset Purchases (LSAP) and Funding for Lending Programme (FLP) to the Official Cash Rate (OCR – Base Rate)
LSAP – this is the buying of up $100 billion of government bonds – quantitative easing FLP – this gives banks cheap lending based on the Official Cash Rate – could be about $28 billion based on take up OCR – wholesale interest rate currently at 0.25%. Commercial banks borrow at 0.5% above OCR and can save at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) at 1% below OCR.
With FLP and more LSAP this will mean lower lending rates and deposit rates. This should provide more stimulus in the economy and allay fears of future funding constraints making banks more confident about lending. Add to this a third stimulus – an OCR of 0.25%. The flow chart shows the impact that these three stimulus policies have on a variety of variables including – exchange rates – inflation -unemployment – consumer spending – investment – GDP. Very useful for a class discussion on the monetary policy mechanism.
Below is a useful graph from the ANZ Quarterly Economic Outlook – full publication here. It covers Aggregate Demand in the New Zealand economy and the relative importance of each of the four components AD = C+I+G+(X-M).
C = Private Consumption I = Business Investment G = Government Consumption (X-M) = Net Exports
Notice how consumption and investment become negative during the Covid-19 pandemic – over 15% of GDP in the first quarter of 2021. However it could be expected that net exports will start to bring in much needed growth in the economy – New Zealand is lucky to be a producer of food an inelastic product meaning the demand remains quite stable. With weak domestic demand there is no such need for imported capital goods as business investment starts to dry up. With net exports, Government spending also will be a significant part of a recovery and to offset the deficit in consumption (C) and investment (I).
Income from the tourism industry will be limited in New Zealand as the country closes its borders although domestic demand could offset some of this loss. But with a loss of income and job insecurity this spending might not be forthcoming.
The recovery will require a massive stimulus – monetary and stimulus. For the RBNZ negative interest rates might be considered as a policy option especially with a depressed labour market and the threat of deflation. As the ANZ point out in their publication there are plenty of long-term challenges ahead. But New Zealand is resilient, and has come into this crisis with a lot of advantages:
We have been in a position to respond to the outbreak quickly;
We produce a lot of essential goods domestically and our exports are still in demand;
We have a well-functioning health system and government;
We have plenty of fiscal firepower to respond;
The financial system is resilient; and
The exchange rate and monetary policy can provide a buffer.
Below is a link to a very good interview with Corin Dann and Don Brash this morning on National Radio’s ‘Morning Report’. Former Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash says that the major Central Banks need to act together and reduce interest rates to offset the impact of Covid-19. The Central Banks he refers to are: US Fed, Bank of England, Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank. Good discussion of the impact of the NZ dollar on trade and the fact that just the past month in New Zealand, the virus may have cost as much as $300 million in lost exports to China. Worth a listen
The Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) operates monetary policy in New Zealand through adjusting the official cash rate (OCR). The OCR was introduced in March 1999, and is reviewed 7 – 8 times a year. The recent amendment to the Reserve Bank’s legislation sets up a Monetary Policy Committee that is responsible for a new dual mandate of keeping consumer price inflation low and stable, and supporting maximum sustainable employment. The agreement continues the requirement for the Reserve Bank to keep future annual CPI inflation between 1 and 3% over the medium-term, with a focus on keeping future inflation near the 2% mid-point.
Through adjusting the OCR, the Reserve Bank is able to substantially influence short-term interest rates in New Zealand, such as the 90-day bank bill rate. It also has an influence upon long-term interest rates and the exchange rate. In theory this is what the impact should be:
Higher interest rates = contractionary effect which leads to lower inflation and less employment growth
Lower interest rates = expansionary effect which can lead to higher inflation but more employment growth.
However the Reserve Bank of New Zealand acknowledge that it is a very complex mechanism as interest rates impact the aggregate demand through various channels – C+I+G+(X-M) – and over varying time periods.
On a normal day consumers, producers, government etc undertake financial transactions involving the commercial banking system. At the end of each day they need to ensure that their accounts balance but some registered banks may find that they are short of funds following the net aggregate result of these transactions, while others may find that they have substantial deposits.
Commercial banks that are have positive balances can leave this money with the Reserve Bank overnight. They receive the OCR on deposits up to a threshold level, and then receive the OCR less 1% for the remainder. Commercial banks that have a negative balance can borrow overnight from the Reserve Bank at an overnight rate of the OCR plus 0.5%. Therefore if you use the current OCR rate of 1% you get this situation. Remember that 50 basis point = 0.50% and 100 basis points = 1.00%.
Banks have the option (and incentive) of borrowing from each other, and using the Reserve Bank as a last resort. In doing so, both parties gain as the lending and borrowing rate tends to mirror the OCR (given the level of competition in the banking market). Those banks with excess deposits can then receive an overnight rate close to one percent (rather than a zero interest rate on any funds over the threshold level). Those banks who need to borrow funds can do so at around the OCR rate, rather than at 1.50 percent. The interest rate at which these transactions take place is called the overnight interbank cash rate see graph below.
Source: Grant Cleland – Parliamentary Monthly Economic Review – Special Topic – October 2019
The 50 basis points of the OCR (Official Cash Rate) by the RBNZ took everyone by surprise. Cuts of this magnitude generally only occur when significant events happen – 9/11, the GFC, the Christchurch earthquake etc. However the US China trade dispute have significant implications for global trade and ultimately the NZ economy. The idea behind such a cut is to be proactive and get ahead of the curve – why wait and be reactionary.
The Bank has forecast the OCR to trough at 0.9 percent, indicating a possible further interest rate cut in the near future. The RBNZ believe that lower interest rates will drive economic growth by encouraging more investment but you would have thought that such low rates wold have been stimulatory by now. I don’t recall the corporate sector complaining too much about interest rates and according to the NZIER (New Zealand Institute of Economic Research) latest survey of business opinion only 4% of firms cited finance as the factor most limiting their ability to increase turnover. The problem seems to be an increase in input costs for firms which is hard to pass on to consumers.
Lower interest rates have a downside in the reduction in spending by savers and this could also impact on consumer confidence. Any hint of further easing seems to encourage financial risk-taking more than real investment. Central bankers have thus become prisoners of the atmosphere they helped to create. There is still a belief amongst politicians that central bankers have the power by to solve these issues in an economy and politicians keep asking why those powers aren’t being used.
Are negative Interest rates an option?
The idea behind this is that if trading banks are charged interest for holding money at the central bank they are more likely to make additional loans to people. Although this sounds good negative interest rates on those that hold deposits at the bank could lead to customers storing their money elsewhere.
The European Central Bank sees that negative interest rates have an expansionary effect which outweighs the contractionary effect. An example of this is Jyske Bank, Denmark’s third-largest bank, offered a 10-year fixed-rate mortgage with an interest rate of -0.5%. for a ten-year mortgage – in other words the bank pay you to take out a mortgage.
However negative interest rates is seen as a short-run fix for the economy. Getting people to pay interest for deposit holdings may mean that banks have less deposits to lend out in the long-run and this may choke off lending and ultimately growth in the EU.
Today’s labour market data showed a drop in unemployment from 4.4% to 3.9% and an employment rate of 68.3% the highest since the HLFS survey was first reported in 1986. The
unemployment rate of 3.9% is the lowest since June 2008 and towards the lowest bound of the RBNZs estimated 4% to 5.5% range for the Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU). See graph below:
Tomorrow the RBNZ present their November Monetary Policy Statement (MPS) and these figures give them limited time to change any policy direction. Remember that the RBNZ is now tasked “supporting maximum sustainable employment within the economy” alongside its price stability mandate of 1-3% CPI with a target of 2%. However these figures seem to suggest that further easing is not required to meet employment objectives.
What is the Natural Rate of Unemployment?
The natural rate of unemployment is the difference between those who would like a job at the current wage rate – and those who are willing and able to take a job. In the above diagram, it is the level (Q2-Q1).
The natural rate of unemployment will therefore include:
Frictional unemployment – those people in-between jobs
Structural unemployment – those people that don’t have the skills that fit the jobs that are available.
It is also referred to as the Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU) – the job market neither pushes up inflation nor holds it back.
With the A2 mock exam next week here is a post on the theory and applied aspects of monetary policy. Monetary policy is the process by which the monetary authority of a country controls the supply of money, often targeting an inflation rate or interest rate to ensure price stability and general trust in the currency.
Further goals of a monetary policy are usually to contribute to economic growth and stability, to lower unemployment, and to maintain predictable exchange rates with other currencies.
Monetary policy is referred to as either being expansionary or contractionary, where an expansionary policy increases the total supply of money in the economy more rapidly than usual, and contractionary policy expands the money supply more slowly than usual or even shrinks it. Expansionary policy is traditionally used to try to combat unemployment in a recession by lowering interest rates in the hope that easy credit will entice businesses into expanding. Contractionary policy is intended to slow inflation in order to avoid the resulting distortions and deterioration of asset values. See mind map of Monetary Policy below.
What have caused US interest rates to increase?
The US economy has been at the forefront of the global upswing in the last couple of years and compared to other countries they are imposing a contractionary monetary policy – see graph.
The central bank in the USA, the Federal Reserve, are confident that the economy is nearly at full capacity and that inflationary pressures are starting to become evident. The main factors behind this are as follows and they all point towards an increase in aggregate demand.
Higher GDP growth
Rising investment in oil and gas industry
Strong consumer spending
Strong employment growth
Tight labour market
The US is the only major economy to impose a significant contractionary monetary policy and the Fed has increased its interest rate six times in the last two years, and four more rate hikes are expected over the next 12 months. The UK and Canada have raised their policy rates tentatively, while Europe and Japan are still in the midst of unconventional easing programmes and interest rate hikes are a distant prospect. Whilst the Reserve Bank in New Zealand don’t expect rates to rise until early 2020.
A speech delivered last July by John McDermott (Assistant Governor and Head of Economics at the RBNZ) talked about the neutral rate of interest. Central Banks have often used the term ‘the neutral rate’ which refers to a rate of interest that neither stimulates the economy nor restrains economic growth. This rate is often defined as the rate which is consistent with full employment, trend growth, and stable prices – an economy where neither expansionary nor contractionary measures need to be implemented.
The neutral interest rate is the rate of interest where desired savings equal desired investment, and can be thought of as the level of the OCR that is neither contractionary nor expansionary for the economy.
OCR > Neutral Rate = Contractionary and slowing down the economy OCR < Neutral Rate = Expansionary and speeding up the economy
The RBNZ’s last published estimate of the neutral OCR was in June 2017 at 3.5%, with a range of estimates around that between 2.6% to 4.6%. Like many other countries, the neutral cash rate in NZ is estimated to have been declining over many years.
Since the GFC neutral rates around the world have been falling which reflects the following:
Lower expectations about growth in the economy = reduces the return to investment
Relative to pre-GFC, a wider spread between the central bank rate and the interest rates faced by households and businesses (i.e. mortgages and business lending rates).
An increase in global desired savings. For instance, demographic trends offshore have led to an increase in saving among the cohort of the population going through prime earning years (as they save for retirement). Likewise, increased income inequality is thought to increase desired savings, as top income earners typically have a lower marginal propensity to consume – MPC.
Higher debt ratios in some countries (including NZ) make the economy more sensitive to interest rate increases than before.
Central Banks don’t have the independence to set the neutral rate as it is very much influenced by global forces. However they do have independence as to where they set their policy rate relative to the neutral rate.
Source: BNZ – Interest Rate Research – 14th June 2018