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Weak NZ inflation builds case for rate cut

finance_2.jpgA slower-than-expected pace of inflation has added to the case for an interest rate cut next month as a strong New Zealand dollar continues to keep a lid on imported prices.

The consumers price index rose 0.4 per cent in the June quarter from a year earlier, missing the Reserve Bank's estimate of 0.6 per cent and tracking below the bank's target band for annual inflation of one-to-three per cent for the seventh straight quarter.

Tradables inflation, which includes goods and services that compete with imported rivals, fell 1.5 per cent from a year earlier as a strong Kiwi dollar continued to make overseas purchases cheaper.

Non-tradables inflation, which measures domestic price increases, rose 1.8 per cent from a year earlier.

Traders are pricing in a 74 per cent chance the Reserve Bank will cut the official cash rate a quarter-point to 2 per cent on August 11 when it will next review, and the bank's unscheduled economic update this Thursday will be keenly watched for words to that effect.

Economists at ANZ Bank New Zealand, ASB Bank, Westpac Banking Corp and Capital Economics said the CPI data added to the case for lower rates next month, as did currency traders at HiFX.

"We still believe that in a backdrop of a strong domestic economy, growing capacity pressures and broadening housing and credit largesse, cutting the OCR again is not without risks," ANZ senior economist Philip Borkin said.

"However, given low headline inflation, already soft inflation expectations and the strong NZ dollar, it does look like the RBNZ will be dragged back to the easing table once again."

The Kiwi dollar trade-weighted index dropped to 75.52 from 76.31 immediately before the release, while two-year swap rates fell about six basis points to 2.12 per cent.

The Reserve Bank will get a chance to share its view of the market on Thursday when it provides an "economic assessment".

The bank said it would make out-of-turn statement last week because of the gap between the June and August monetary policy statements under its new timetable, and investors took it as a sign the bank wasn't happy with the strength of the currency and may try to jawbone the Kiwi or indicate a rate cut was coming.

The difficulty for the Reserve Bank is the impact lower interest rates have had on the housing market with prices surging due to a shortage of supply in Auckland city and increasing demand, fuelled by record net migration.

Capital Economics chief Australia and New Zealand economist Paul Dale said the Reserve Bank was in a tricky position with inflation weaker than expected and housing stronger.

He still expects the central bank will cut the OCR in August and again later this year, and speculated that the Thursday update will see the RBNZ "hint that it's going to use lending restrictions to take the heat out of housing but continue to use lower interest rates to boost inflation."

BusinessDesk pjg

Real Estate Investar Editor
Real Estate Investar Editor
Real Estate Investar provides intelligent software, tools and data to help you save time and make money in the residential property investment market.

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