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18-08-2021

Official cash rate on hold at 0.25 percent

The Monetary Policy Committee agreed to retain the current stimulatory level of monetary settings, keeping the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 0.25 per cent for now. Today’s decision was made in the context of the Government’s imposition of Level 4 COVID restrictions on activity across New Zealand. 

The Committee will assess the inflation and employment outlook on an ongoing basis, with a view to continue to reduce the level of monetary stimulus over time so as to best meet their policy remit. This follows the recent halting of additional government bond purchases under the Large Scale Asset Purchase (LSAP) programme in July.  

Global monetary and fiscal settings remain at accommodative levels, supporting international spending and investment. Rising vaccination rates across many countries have provided economic impetus. The rise in activity has continued to support demand and prices for New Zealand’s export commodities.

However, the need to reinstate COVID-19 containment measures in some regions highlights the serious health and economic risks posed by the virus. Persistent and elevated health risks are promoting ongoing global supply chain disruptions, and are acting to constrain productive capacity and prolong inflationary pressures. Today’s re-introduction of Level 4 restrictions to activity across New Zealand is a stark example of how unpredictable and disruptive the virus is proving to be.

The Committee noted that the New Zealand economy had rebounded more strongly than most countries, with less domestic disruption caused by COVID-19 to date. Employment is currently at or above its maximum sustainable level, and consumer price inflation expectations remain anchored near 2 percent, the midpoint of the target range.  

Recent data for the New Zealand economy suggest demand is robust and the economic recovery has broadened, despite some weakness persisting in the sectors most exposed to international tourism. Household spending and construction activity are at high levels and continue to grow, and business investment is responding to increased demand.

Capacity pressures are now evident in the economy, particularly in the labour market where job vacancies remain high despite the recent decline in unemployment and underemployment. Wages are rising consistent with the tight labour market conditions.

Broader inflation pressures are being accentuated in the near-term by one-off price rises such as higher oil prices, and temporary factors such as supply shortfalls and higher transport costs. Near-term consumer price inflation is expected to rise above the Committee’s target range before returning towards the 2 percent midpoint around mid-2022.

The Committee agreed they are confident of meeting their inflation and employment remit with less need for the existing level of monetary stimulus. However, the Committee remains alert to the supply disruptions that COVID-19 can create, and the dampening effect this can have on confidence. House prices are also above their sustainable level, heightening the risk of a price correction as supply increases.

The Committee agreed that their least regrets policy stance is to further reduce the level of monetary stimulus so as to anchor inflation expectations and continue to contribute to maximum sustainable employment. They agreed, however, to keep the OCR unchanged at this meeting given the heightened uncertainty with the country in a lockdown.

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