Tag Archives: RBNZ

Monetary Policy in New Zealand – what the OCR means.

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

50 basis points cut by RBNZ – are they going negative?

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.

RNBZ can’t seriously be thinking about reducing the OCR

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).

Source: economicshelp.org

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.

Source: BNZ – Economy Watch – 7th November 2018

Global Monetary Policy – why are US rates on the rise?

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
  • Tax cuts
  • Strong employment growth
  • Tight labour market
  • Higher wages

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.

New Zealand’s Neutral Rate of Interest

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:

  1.  Lower expectations about growth in the economy = reduces the return to investment
  2.  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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Looks like inflation might hit 2% in New Zealand

The ASB Bank produce a very good Economic Report and below are some of the points they make with regard to inflationary pressures – useful for NCEA Level 2 and 3 as well as CIE AS and A2 level. The CPI will be on the rise with higher global commodity prices (see graph below) as well as the weakening NZ dollar which in turn makes imports more expensive.

  • Commodity-price related influences are expected to directly contribute around 1 percentage point to annual CPI inflation over 2018. The direct impact is expected to wane.
  • The period of retail deflation looks like it might be coming to an end. The lower NZD and pending increases in wage costs could see this component add to inflation. The extent to which prices will firm will depend on retail margins.
  • Administered price increases will add roughly half a percentage point to annual inflation despite the impact of the free tertiary fees policy. Higher prices for tobacco and local authority rates seem to be a fact of life: one driven by health objectives, the other by perennial infrastructure demand and a lack of competitive pressure.
  • The labour market is likely to become more of a source of price increases. We note that higher wages need not impact on consumer prices if they are offset by a corresponding increase in labour productivity/trimming in producer margins.
  • Price increases from the housing group are expected to subside. It is no longer a sellers’ market for existing dwellings. The balance of power for building work looks to be increasingly shifting towards the customer and away from the provider. Rental dwelling inflation is expected to remain moderate.

Breakdown of CPI Weighting

Source: ASB Bank – Economic Note – Inflation Watch 26 July 2018

RBNZ cut OCR but little mention of Trump

Although the attention this morning was on the election of Donald Trump as US President the RBNZ cut the OCR to 1.75% with a mild easing bias of “numerous uncertainties remain, particularly in respect of the international outlook, and policy may need to adjust accordingly”. nz-cpi-nov-16

It is expected that the OCR will remain at this level in the near future with inflation expected to be back within the 1-3% Policy Target Agreement (PTA) by the end of January next year – see graph from ASB Bank. The reason for this is that:

  • Dairy prices have recovered considerably.
  • The labour market is tightening.
  • Growth is running at an above-trend pace.
  • The OCR is already at an expansionary rate and the economy.

Could there be another cut in the OCR? There would be pressure if the following eventuated:

  • there is a strengthening of the NZ dollar,
  • increasing bank funding costs,
  • any further weakness in inflation expectations,
  • any deterioration in the global growth outlook.

The change of US Presidency will also be a wildcard over the longer term, with its mix of potential fiscal stimulus and trade protectionism. Trump has already signaled that he is not keen to sign TPP and he wants to reopen the NAFTA – North America Free Trade Agreement. Furthermore, he might take umbrage on the Chinese with their manipulation of the Yuan to advantage its exports and put a large tariff on its goods coming into the US. For New Zealand it may mean that they have to go down the bi-lateral agreement option in order to increase trade.

Other than the US election, Graeme Wheeler needs to be aware of the following:

  • Theresa May has indicated she wants to trigger Article 50 by May 2017 – it is very unclear what the process will be and the negotiating strategy of both the UK and the EU. This could have implications for NZ trade.
  • In China the increasing of centalised  power of the President.
  • China has a huge amount of corporate debt relative to GDP – see graph below.
  • Brazil is still in recession
  • Russia still has issues in the Middle East

China Corporate debt.png

RBNZ cut OCR but NZ$ on the rise

Last Thursday it was no real surprise that the RBNZ cut the official cash rate to 2%. With this cut you would have expected some fall in the value of the $NZ but instead it appreciated. So why did the $NZ appreciate? Graeme Wheeler was interviewed by NZ Herald reporter Liam Dann and explained to him that we live in a phenomenal situation. Global interest rates have been incredible low especially in countries like Japan, the UK and Australia – see table below. Add to that the impact of quantitive easing since 2009 and negative interest rates in countries which account for 25% of world GDP and you have a very unusual situation.

CB Rate Aug 16

Some key assumptions from the RBNZ are that:

The global economy will start to pick-up which will mean that there will be less pressure on the NZ$ as investors look to other currencies to invest in. Remember that the NZ$ is the 10th most traded currency in the world and at uncertain times in the global economy it is seen as safe place to ‘park’ your money. This therefore increases the demand for NZ$’s appreciating its value.

Also the growth of the domestic economy with GDP expanding by 2.4 percent over the year ended in the March 2016 quarter, could mean a rise in inflationary expectations which should bring the inflation rate closer to the 2% mid point method in the policy target agreement. However this is a drop from 3.2% from the previous year.

According to Stephen Toplis of the BNZ 

Clearly, the NZD is already higher than anticipated and inflation expectations could well be constrained for longer as annual headline inflation falls, potentially, sub-zero. It was also interesting that the RBNZ did not repeat its upside scenario for interest rates due to higher house prices. This reaffirms the Bank’s easing bias.

All things considered then, and noting there is still significant uncertainty as to the exact way ahead, we can reasonably comfortably conclude that:

–  There will be at least one more rate cut;

–  The balance of risk is for even more;

–  The cash rate is going to be at least as low as it is now for a long time;

–  Inflation is likely to continue surprising to the downside in the near term;

–  Only when the rest of the world plays ball will the NZD wilt.

Brexit Result – what does it mean for New Zealand, the RBNZ, Gold and Sterling?

The impact of Brexit on the New Zealand economy should be limited when you consider the following statistics:

  • 3.5% of total exports from NZ go to the UK – mainly sheep and wine.
  • 2.7% of total imports from the UK to NZ – mainly transport goods
  • 6.7% of all short-term visitor arrivals come from the UK

When the UK joined the EEC (as it was then know as) in 1973 there was a major shift away from trade with the Commonwealth. However New Zealand has been able to move away from the traditional dependency of the Commonwealth to become increasingly integrated to the Asia Pacific region.

Reserve Bank of New Zealand

The RBNZ is a good position even with a record low OCR of 2.25% which paradoxically is among the highest in the developed world. By not being aggressive with OCR cuts the RBNZ has the ammunition to stimulate aggregate demand further which is in contrast to the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan who are in negative territory. With the turmoil in Europe over Brexit the US Fed will most likely hold off on a rate hike to ease the pressure on markets – it may even cut the US Fed rate.

Gold and Sterling – US$ rate

The graph below shows the reaction to the Brexit – GBP drops significantly against the US$ and gold, as a safe investment, appreciates in value. The uncertainty that surrounds Brexit saw more investors buy gold, which rose to about $1,315 an ounce on June 24th, up by 4.7% on the previous day. This was the largest increase since the global financial crisis in 2008. The rise was in stark contrast to the plunging pound, which tumbled to its lowest level in 30 years.

 

Brexit - Gold USD

Below is video from the FT looking at Five Consequences of the UK’s exit form the EU.

Low inflation in New Zealand not just about falling oil prices.

The 0.1% inflation rate in New Zealand has largely been attributed to the 50% drop in oil prices since the start of last year – see chart. Although oil prices are referred to as a volatile item they have been low for sometime and are expected to remain subdued. Lower fuel costs have reduced prices for services such as air travel, and have dampened prices on shop floors as the distribution costs for retail items have declined.

World Commod Prices

However low inflation doesn’t just reflect movements in the price of oil. Even excluding petrol prices, inflation has been below 1% for most of the past year, and it’s set to remain low through 2016. The weak inflation figure has also been due to the low global inflation holding prices down and with the trend likely to continue for some time given the deterioration in global trade and widespread falls in commodity prices. Add to this the slowing growth of the Chinese economy and with its importance to global growth (see chart) you have a serious threat of deflation. This is particularly a concern if the Chinese authorities decide to further devalue their currency – the Renminbi. The RBNZ will have a tough job ahead of it to generate a sustained increase in inflation.

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