Will OCR change next week?

The Reserve Bank is expected to leave the official cash rate at 1.75% next week and continue projecting very little increase for the next three years because inflation has slowed in an economy that’s has been on a faster than expected track, BusinessDesk reports.

The Monetary Policy Statement next Thursday will provide a new set of forecasts and adjusted are expected because both the currency and inflation aren’t where the central bank was expecting back in November and Stats NZ has recalculated its measure of gross domestic product for the 2016 and 2017 March years.

The Reserve Bank will also have to consider the deflationary impact of free first-year tertiary education.

Fourth-quarter inflation of 0.1% was a third of the pace the bank forecast in November and the annual rate slipped back to 1.6%, a bigger drop than it expected.

The November MPS didn’t price in a 25 basis point hike until March 2020 and on that basis the RBNZ could be overtaken by the Federal Reserve this year after chair Janet Yellen repeated there would be gradual increases in the federal funds rate, currently in a target range of 1.25% to 1.50%.

The trade-weighted index was recently at 75.02, above the 73.5 level that the RBNZprojected for the first quarter.

Weaker inflation, the higher kiwi and the impact of the government’s tertiary education policies “are likely to see headline inflation retreat towards the lower end of the target band once again,” said ANZ New Zealand senior economist Phil Borkin in a note.

“The RBNZ will be mindful of the potential implications of this for the formation of inflation expectations.”

The ANZ Roy Morgan consumer confidence survey published today shows Kiwis wound back their expectations for inflation in the next two years.

The survey showed a net 3.2% general increase in prices is expected, down from a 3.5% rise seen in the previous month’s survey.

National house price expectations rose to 2.9% from 2.4%.

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Reserve Bank Hold Official Cash Rates

Statement by Reserve Bank Governor Grant Spencer:

The Reserve Bank today left the Official Cash Rate (OCR) unchanged at 1.75 percent.

Global economic growth continues to improve, although inflation and wage outcomes remain subdued. Commodity prices are relatively stable. Bond yields and credit spreads remain low and equity prices are near record levels. Monetary policy remains easy in the advanced economies but is gradually becoming less stimulatory.

The exchange rate has eased since the August Statement and, if sustained, will increase tradables inflation and promote more balanced growth.

GDP in the June quarter grew broadly in line with expectations, following relative weakness in the previous two quarters. Employment growth has been strong and GDP growth is projected to strengthen, with a weaker outlook for housing and construction offset by accommodative monetary policy, the continued high terms of trade, and increased fiscal stimulus.

The Bank has incorporated preliminary estimates of the impact of new government policies in four areas: new government spending; the KiwiBuild programme; tighter visa requirements; and increases in the minimum wage. The impact of these policies remains very uncertain.

House price inflation has moderated due to loan-to-value ratio restrictions, affordability constraints, reduced foreign demand, and a tightening in credit conditions. Low house price inflation is expected to continue, reinforced by new government policies on housing.

Annual CPI inflation was 1.9 percent in September although underlying inflation remains subdued. Non-tradables inflation is moderate but expected to increase gradually as capacity pressures increase. Tradables inflation has increased due to the lower New Zealand dollar and higher oil prices, but is expected to soften in line with projected low global inflation. Overall, CPI inflation is projected to remain near the midpoint of the target range and longer-term inflation expectations are well anchored at 2 percent.

Monetary policy will remain accommodative for a considerable period. Numerous uncertainties remain and policy may need to adjust accordingly.

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Homeowners not losing sleep over interest rate rises, survey shows

A new survey has revealed Kiwi homeowners are largely unfazed about their ability to cope with mortgage rate rises, but they are continuing to find it difficult to curb spending on consumer items.

The nationwide survey by mortgage franchise network New Zealand Home Loans (NZHL) found more than half of respondents (57.6%) were either not concerned or were neutral about the potential for future interest rate increases.

The sentiment comes after the Reserve Bank held the official cash rate (OCR) last month at 1.75%.

Speaking to NZ Adviser, NZHL chief executive Julian Travaglia said although interest rates are slowly going up they are not completely unpredictable like in the past.

“I remember the days when rates were bouncing around like an elephant on a bungee cord,” he says, in contrast to their current slow but steady climb and the Reserve Bank indicating an OCR increase is unlikely any time soon.

“I don’t see the pressures that would require the Reserve Bank to force the OCR up particularly given that the housing market, at least temporarily, seems to be cooling.

“I think has made people a little bit complacent. I think people still don’t really understand that interest rates are by and large driven by off-shore funding costs by the banks as opposed to necessarily the OCR.”

He says mortgage holders should be paying off their debt faster and smarter.

“What we’ve seen from people’s spending habits is that they’ve managed to get themselves a home loan over a long period now when rates go up – when they come off that fixed rate and go on a new one, they can’t suddenly extend their home loan term out to make the payments lower again.

“So it’s going to force people into a position where they’re going to have to either make some reasonable cut backs or they’re going to get into some financial difficulty.”

Despite the view on interest rates, the survey found that homeowners have some areas of spending that don’t feel they have under control, with the biggest problem area of unplanned spending being around consumer items such as household electronics, tools and sports goods where 47% of respondents found difficulty controlling spending and secondly for services like household maintenance at 46%.

Travaglia he is concerned about those who have overextended themselves in the last few years and now tied to a hefty mortgage.

“If they haven’t been paying that off sooner – making hay while the low interest rate sun’s shining – they could find themselves in trouble down the track,” he told NZ Adviser.

The survey respondents consisted of 1,994 NZHL clients.

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RBNZ makes cash rate call

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has today left the official cash rate unchanged at 1.75%. The result was expected by all 11 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, the majority of whom also forecast the benchmark rate of 1.75% will hold for another year.

The Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler released the following statement:

Global economic growth has become more broad-based in recent quarters.  However, inflation and wage outcomes remain subdued across the advanced economies, and challenges remain with on-going surplus capacity.  Bond yields are low, credit spreads have narrowed and equity prices are at record levels. Monetary policy is expected to remain stimulatory in the advanced economies, but less so going forward.

The trade-weighted exchange rate has increased since the May Statement, partly in response to a weaker US dollar.  A lower New Zealand dollar is needed to increase tradables inflation and help deliver more balanced growth.

GDP in the March quarter was lower than expected, adding to the softening in growth observed at the end of 2016.  Growth is expected to improve going forward, supported by accommodative monetary policy, strong population growth, an elevated terms of trade, and the fiscal stimulus outlined in Budget 2017.

House price inflation continues to moderate due to loan-to-value ratio restrictions, affordability constraints, and a tightening in credit conditions.  This moderation is expected to persist, although there remains a risk of resurgence in prices given continued strong population growth and resource constraints in the construction sector.

Annual CPI inflation eased in the June quarter, but remains within the target range.  Headline inflation is likely to decline in coming quarters as the effects of higher fuel and food prices dissipate.  The outlook for tradables inflation remains weak.  Non-tradables inflation remains moderate but is expected to increase gradually as capacity pressure increases, bringing headline inflation to the midpoint of the target range over the medium term.  Longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at around 2 percent.

Monetary policy will remain accommodative for a considerable period.  Numerous uncertainties remain and policy may need to adjust accordingly.

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7% mortgage rates could collapse housing market

In its May Financial Stability Report the Reserve Bank of New Zealand reveals the results stress tests designed to assess the vulnerability of households to service their mortgages if rates rise.

It’s findings show a high number of owner-occupier households would be under financial stress if rates jump, which could collapse the housing market as defaults rise as demand weakens further.

The central bank considered a 7% mortgage rate, close to the average for a 2-year loan over the past decade, and a 9% rate which it says is “extreme but still plausible.”

At a 7% rate, the bank estimates that 4% of all borrowers (6% of the total stock of mortgage debt) and 5% of recent borrowers (9% of total) would be unable to manage their essential expenses. A further 9% of all borrowers would have only a small buffer for discretionary spending.

At a 9% mortgage rate, 7% of all borrowers and 19% of recent borrowers would be unable to manage.

“While the LVR restrictions have increased the banks’ resilience to any fall in house prices, a significant share of housing loans are being made at high debt-to-income (DTI) ratios. Such borrowers tend to be more vulnerable to any increase in interest rates or declines in income,” said RBNZ Deputy Governor Grant Spencer.

The report warns that Auckland’s mortgage borrowers are at a higher vulnerability to increased rates with 5% in the city estimated to be unable to meet essential expenses at a mortgage rate of 7% compared to 3% elsewhere.

With high levels of New Zealand’s homeowners vulnerable to mortgage rate rises, the central bank forecasts that a sharp and unexpected hike in rates could see defaults increase, consumption cut, and homes being sold to pay debts.

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Reserve Bank delivers cash rate call

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) has this morning left the official cash rate unchanged at 1.75%. 

Governor Graeme Wheeler said in a statement, “House price inflation has moderated further, especially in Auckland. The slowing in house price inflation partly reflects loan-to-value ratio restrictions and tighter lending conditions. This moderation is projected to continue, although there is a risk of resurgence given the continuing imbalance between supply and demand.

“Monetary policy will remain accommodative for a considerable period. Numerous uncertainties remain and policy may need to adjust accordingly.”

Canstar general manager Jose George said it is an uncertain environment for home owners and warned on the increasing pressure for mortgage holders.

“As recent statistics show, while house prices have started cooling in  Auckland and other larger cities, mortgage rates are starting to trend upwards,” said George.

“Independent of OCR, the costs of servicing a mortgage are rising. Couple this with rising inflation and the flow-on effect this could have on other living costs, you have a situation where an already stretched household budget will not be able to take the added pressure for most NZers.

“For savers the situation is more positive.  Despite a series of drops in OCR, term deposit rates have remained largely untouched over the last 12 months or so. We are now starting to see increases in deposit rates, reinforcing the belief that banks are keen to grow their existing domestic deposit book.

The full statement by Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler is below:
Global economic growth has increased and become more broad-based over recent months. However, major challenges remain with on-going surplus capacity and extensive political uncertainty.

Stronger global demand has helped to raise commodity prices over the past year, which has led to some increase in headline inflation across New Zealand’s trading partners. However, the level of core inflation has generally remained low. Monetary policy is expected to remain stimulatory in the advanced economies, but less so going forward.

The trade-weighted exchange rate has fallen by around 5 percent since February, partly in response to global developments and reduced interest rate differentials. This is encouraging and, if sustained, will help to rebalance the growth outlook towards the tradables sector.

GDP growth in the second half of 2016 was weaker than expected. Nevertheless, the growth outlook remains positive, supported by on-going accommodative monetary policy, strong population growth, and high levels of household spending and construction activity.

House price inflation has moderated further, especially in Auckland. The slowing in house price inflation partly reflects loan-to-value ratio restrictions and tighter lending conditions. This moderation is projected to continue, although there is a risk of resurgence given the continuing imbalance between supply and demand.

The increase in headline inflation in the March quarter was mainly due to higher tradables inflation, particularly petrol and food prices. These effects are temporary and may lead to some variability in headline inflation over the year ahead. Non-tradables and wage inflation remain moderate but are expected to increase gradually. This will bring future headline inflation to the midpoint of the target band over the medium term. Longer-term inflation expectations remain well-anchored at around 2 percent.

Developments since the February Monetary Policy Statement on balance are considered to be neutral for the stance of monetary policy.

Monetary policy will remain accommodative for a considerable period. Numerous uncertainties remain and policy may need to adjust accordingly.

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Auckland no longer the most unaffordable region

Central Otago Lakes has now overtaken Auckland as the most unaffordable region in New Zealand, a new report shows.

The latest Massey University Home Affordability Report for the period from December 2016 to February 2017, revealed national affordability had improved over the quarter, due to a fall in house prices in seven regions, including Auckland.

But affordability declined in Central Otago Lakes by 8.2% over the same period.

“This was in contrast to a considerable 7.5% improvement in Auckland’s affordability and, on the Massey index, Central Otago Lakes now ranks as the country’s least affordable region,” says report author associate professor Graham Squires from Massey’s School of Economics and Finance.

“Central Otago also has the largest decline in affordability over the 12-month period, which is a reflection of tourism industry demand in Queenstown, a shortage of housing supply, speculative investment demand, a focus on high-end lifestyle living in the area, and largely stagnant wage increases.”

Auckland’s median house price fell by $51,944 over the last quarter (6.1%).

“These two regions are the least affordable by a clear margin,” Dr Squires said. “Auckland still sits at 55% less affordable than the rest of the country, and Central Otago Lakes is now 68% less affordable than the rest of New Zealand.”

Despite the improvement in affordability in seven regions in both the report’s annual and quarterly figures, Dr Squires said the ratio of median house price to median wage remains very high in Auckland and Central Otago Lakes.

“In our two most expensive regions this will continue to place strain on first home buyers, especially in Central Otago Lakes where the median house price is nearly 14 times the median annual wage.”

Dr Squires noted that slowing house prices and record low interest rates were driving the improvement in affordability but that rates were on the rise.

“It’s important to note that that the quarterly interest rate used to calculate the index is a weighted average of all loans and that is currently at 4.85%. New customers’ rates for January are now much higher – generally between five and six per cent, depending on the type and term of the loan.

“It is possible more stringent deposit and bank lending requirements and interest rate rises could make it more difficult for home buyers in the future.”

Mortgage rate rises expected to continue

As part of their Asia-Pacific banking outlook series, S&P Global Ratings analysts discussed their forecasts for New Zealand’s banking sector.

During a live webcast last week, the key points made were that the New Zealand credit cycle appears to be maturing and risks stemming from rising house prices and household debt levels are expected to stabilize this year.

Bank performance is expected to remain strong although they forecast credit growth within New Zealand’s banking system to slow.

Factors contributing to the stabilization include the expected continuation of increasing residential mortgage rates, funding gaps, margin recovery and macro prudential measures reducing the number of participants in the mortgage market.

Analysts said bank margins are facing a number of headwinds including higher funding costs; higher ‘core’ funding requirements; and likely higher capital requirements. They expect slower lending growth to help meet some of the funding requirement.

Financial Services Ratings associate director, Andrew Mayes said, “We don’t expect to see house prices fall, but we do expect them to slow,” as the more recent round of restrictions appear to have had an impact.

“Other indicators of heightened risk within the system still remain,” he continued, including interest only loans, household debt and limits to the extent of the Reserve Bank’s influence, particularly if migration remains strong and housing supply remains insufficient.

Mayes said he doesn’t see debt-to-income restrictions being introduced during an election year.

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New Zealanders unaware of rate rise impacts: survey

It’s no secret that interest rates are on the rise and most people with a mortgage anticipate the increase, a new BNZ survey shows.

But worryingly, it also found the majority intend to make no changes to their mortgages in response the rate increases.

The BNZ Financial Futures research found that home owners with mortgages were in the dark about how the impact a 1% interest rate rise would have on their household – three out of five people underestimated how much extra people will pay on the average mortgage size.

BNZ’s director of retail and marketing, Paul Carter said, “It’s concerning that despite 70% of people with mortgages anticipating interest rates will rise this year, 67% of mortgagors are not considering making any changes to their mortgage.”

The survey found 24% of people said they regularly monitor interest rates and proactively restructure their mortgage.

A BNZ spokeswoman told NZ Adviser many homeowners tend to have the mentality of ‘setting and forgetting’ their mortgage.

“This probably comes down to people not appreciating how small changes to their mortgage repayment schedule can reduce the lifetime of their mortgage and how much interest they’ll pay,” she said.

“Our main concern is that people will end up paying unnecessary interest over the lifetime of their mortgage.

“For most homeowners interest rate rises will change their household budget and it’s important they consider how they can react – they might want to fix a bigger part of their mortgage or increase their repayments slightly while rates are still near their lowest level in a generation.”

She said the third party channel can help increase awareness on the issue with their clients, having conversations about how their mortgage is set up and what repayments they can manage.

One in five home owners said they were likely to extend the term of their mortgage if their mortgage payment increased by $120 per fortnight, the research found. Nearly one in three said they’d look to reduce utilities like insurance, petrol, heating and power.

Carter said it’s important New Zealanders understand all their budgeting options in a changing mortgage environment.

“New Zealanders will still be enjoying some of the lowest rates in a generation. So it concerns me that too many people are jumping straight into what seems to be the easy option, which is a couple more years on the mortgage – especially when the changes we’re talking about are small.

“BNZ, like most New Zealand banks, stress-tests people with mortgages at an interest rate higher than the current rates, so we know that budgets and incomes can manage rate rises much bigger than this.

“So while we know our customers have room to move within their budgets to absorb any rises, it’s particularly concerning that 20% of people with mortgages would extend the term of their mortgage if their repayments increased by $120 or more, as this is only going to set them back in the long term,” he said.

“It’s a good idea to occasionally have a sobering conversation about the household budget and consider some ‘what ifs’.

The BNZ Financial Futures research was conducted by Colmar Brunton, a New Zealand Market Research Company surveying a total sample size of 2,000.

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