New Zealand 30-year high inflation flags need for more tightening

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Residential houses are seen in Wellington, New Zealand, July 1, 2017. Picture taken July 1, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray By Lucy Craymer WELLINGTON (Reuters) -New Zealand's consumer prices rose at the fastest pace in three decades last quarter, underlining the need for the central bank to stay on its hawkish course to contain price pressures without tipping the economy into recession. The New Zealand dollar slipped after the data showed inflation was not quite as hot as feared though, slightly softening expectations the central bank would again hike rates by 50 basis points in May. Annual inflation rose 6.9% in the first quarter from 5.9% in the fourth quarter, the fastest since a 7.6% clip in the June quarter of 1990, Statistics New Zealand said in a statement on Thursday CPI rose 1.8% in the quarter ending March from a 1.4% rise in the fourth quarter. But the data was below economists’ expectations in a Reuters poll that forecast a 2.0% rise for the quarter, and an annual rise of 7.1%. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) raised interest rates by a hefty 50 basis points to 1.50% last Wednesday, its fourth increase in a row. It has signalled that further hikes will be needed if it wants to get ahead of inflation. BROAD BASED PRICE RISES Inflation pressures were broad based with domestic price pressures continuing to intensify. Statistics New Zealand data showed rising prices for food, petrol, construction and housing. "This domestic inflation is the kind that doesn't go away quickly," ANZ Bank economists said in a research note. "This continued rise in domestic inflation pressures only reinforces the need for ongoing interest rate rises by the RBNZ." ANZ believes higher interest rates will squeeze indebted households this year and engineering a soft landing for the overheated economy could be challenging, especially with the housing market already softening. The dollar eased 0.4% to $0.6772, from $0.6804 just before the data hit dealing screens. Two-year swap rates dipped as much as six basis points to 3.52%. With global inflation expected to stay elevated for some time, and prices of commodities and goods affected by supply issues, economists expect RBNZ to hike interest rates again. "Uncertainty is high but we could still see a 7% annual inflation print delivered in Q2 of this year," ASB Bank economists wrote in a note. It added the bigger issue for them was not when inflation would peak, but how persistent it was.

New Zealand 30-year high inflation flags need for more tightening
New Zealand 30-year high inflation flags need for more tightening© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Residential houses are seen in Wellington, New Zealand, July 1, 2017. Picture taken July 1, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray

By Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON (Reuters) -New Zealand's consumer prices rose at the fastest pace in three decades last quarter, underlining the need for the central bank to stay on its hawkish course to contain price pressures without tipping the economy into recession.

The New Zealand dollar slipped after the data showed inflation was not quite as hot as feared though, slightly softening expectations the central bank would again hike rates by 50 basis points in May.

Annual inflation rose 6.9% in the first quarter from 5.9% in the fourth quarter, the fastest since a 7.6% clip in the June quarter of 1990, Statistics New Zealand said in a statement on Thursday

CPI rose 1.8% in the quarter ending March from a 1.4% rise in the fourth quarter. But the data was below economists’ expectations in a Reuters poll that forecast a 2.0% rise for the quarter, and an annual rise of 7.1%.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) raised interest rates by a hefty 50 basis points to 1.50% last Wednesday, its fourth increase in a row. It has signalled that further hikes will be needed if it wants to get ahead of inflation.

BROAD BASED PRICE RISES

Inflation pressures were broad based with domestic price pressures continuing to intensify. Statistics New Zealand data showed rising prices for food, petrol, construction and housing.

"This domestic inflation is the kind that doesn't go away quickly," ANZ Bank economists said in a research note. "This continued rise in domestic inflation pressures only reinforces the need for ongoing interest rate rises by the RBNZ."

ANZ believes higher interest rates will squeeze indebted households this year and engineering a soft landing for the overheated economy could be challenging, especially with the housing market already softening.

The dollar eased 0.4% to $0.6772, from $0.6804 just before the data hit dealing screens. Two-year swap rates dipped as much as six basis points to 3.52%.

With global inflation expected to stay elevated for some time, and prices of commodities and goods affected by supply issues, economists expect RBNZ to hike interest rates again.

"Uncertainty is high but we could still see a 7% annual inflation print delivered in Q2 of this year," ASB Bank economists wrote in a note. It added the bigger issue for them was not when inflation would peak, but how persistent it was.