RBNZ ‘on a roll’, to deliver two more 50 bps rate hikes in a row: Reuters poll

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FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians walk near the main entrance to the Reserve Bank of New Zealand located in central Wellington, New Zealand

By Devayani Sathyan

BENGALURU – The Reserve Bank of New Zealand will deliver a third successive half-point interest rate hike on Wednesday and a fourth next month in its most aggressive policy tightening on record to control soaring inflation, a Reuters poll found.

A front-runner in withdrawing pandemic-era stimulus among its peers, the RBNZ will extend its hawkish stride to curb the highest inflation in three decades, at 6.9%, despite growing risks of an economic downturn.

Economists have brought forward their rate hike expectations for the sixth Reuters poll in a row, and a majority, 15 of 22, now expect the official cash rate (OCR) to reach 3.50% or higher by the end of this year, broadly in line with market pricing.

Over 90% of economists, 20 of 22, forecast the RBNZ will hike by 50 basis points to 2.50% at its July 13 meeting with only two saying 25 basis points. The poll was taken July 1-7.

If the majority view prevails, it would mark the most aggressive monetary policy tightening since the central bank introduced the OCR in March 1999.

Over 70% of respondents, 16 of 22, forecast another half-point hike at the August meeting, taking rates to 3.00%, three times where it was before the pandemic.

“The RBNZ is on a roll with its 50-pointers, and the data-flow since the May Monetary Policy Statement has not provided any compelling reason to diverge from that strategy,” said Sharon Zollner, chief economist at ANZ.

Zollner expects the central bank to dial down to 25 basis points moves at the October and November meetings, in line with the majority view.

The latest poll has rates at 3.50% for all of next year, according to median forecasts. That is short of the RBNZ’s own expectations for rates to climb to 4.00% by the middle of next year.

“With growth set to slow, we suspect the RBNZ will underdeliver on said interest rate hikes. House price falls and the negative wealth effect will ultimately limit the amount of rate hikes,” said Jarrod Kerr, chief economist at Kiwibank, who also expects the OCR to peak at 3.50%.

In the poll, 14 of 18 respondents forecast the OCR to either stay steady at 3.50% or be lower by the end of next year. The remaining four forecast it to climb to 4.00% by then.

In the meantime, price pressure from global supply chain disruptions is expected to continue.

The poll showed inflation would not fall within the RBNZ’s target range of 1% to 3% until the second half of 2023. It was forecast to average 6.0% this year and ease to 2.8% in 2023.

After an unexpected contraction last quarter, New Zealand’s economy was expected to grow 2.3% in 2022 and 2023, a marked downgrade from 3.1% and 2.7% predicted in April. Only a few economists forecast an outright recession next year.

(For other stories from the Reuters global long-term economic outlook polls package:)

(Reporting by Devayani Sathyan; Polling by Arsh Mogre; Editing by Ross Finley and Jonathan Oatis)