The Reserve Bank today left the Official Cash Rate (OCR) unchanged at 2.75 percent.
Global economic growth is below average and global inflation is low despite highly stimulatory monetary policy. Financial market volatility has eased in recent weeks, but concerns remain about the prospects for slower growth in China and East Asia especially. Financial markets are also uncertain about the timing and effects of monetary policy tightening in the United States and possible easings elsewhere.
The sharp fall in dairy prices since early 2014 continues to weigh on domestic farm incomes. However, growth in the services sector and construction remains robust, driven by net immigration, tourism, and low interest rates. Global dairy prices have risen in recent weeks, contributing to improved household and business sentiment. However, it is too early to say whether these recent improvements will be sustained.
House price inflation in Auckland remains strong, posing a financial stability risk. While residential building is accelerating, it will take some time to correct the supply shortfall. The Government has introduced new tax requirements and the Reserve Bank’s new LVR restrictions on investor lending come into effect on 1 November.
CPI inflation remains below the 1 to 3 percent target range, largely reflecting a combination of earlier strength in the New Zealand dollar and the 60 percent fall in world oil prices since mid-2014.
Annual CPI inflation is expected to return well within the target range by early 2016, as the effects of earlier petrol price falls drop out of the CPI calculation and in response to the fall in the exchange rate since April. However, the exchange rate has been moving higher since September, which could, if sustained, dampen tradables sector activity and medium-term inflation. This would require a lower interest rate path than would otherwise be the case.
Continued economic expansion is expected to result in some pick-up in non-tradables inflation, despite the moderating effects of strong labour supply growth.
To ensure that future average CPI inflation settles near the middle of the target range, some further reduction in the OCR seems likely. This will continue to depend on the emerging flow of economic data. It is appropriate at present to watch and wait.