Inflation is theft

April 18, 2016

Low inflation is boosting household spending power:

Low inflation is helping New Zealand households get ahead, with wages on average continuing to rise faster than the cost of living, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Inflation was only 0.4 per cent for the year to March 2016, according to figures released by Statistics New Zealand today. Inflation for the March quarter was 0.2 per cent. 

Much of quarterly increase was driven by cigarettes and tobacco, which rose 9.4 per cent following increase in excise duty in January. Food prices were up 1.2 per cent in the quarter, but were down 0.4 per cent over the whole year.

Lower oil prices contributed to the low cost of living increase. Petrol prices fell 7.7 per cent in the first three months of 2016, following a 5.7 per cent fall the previous quarter.

“We are in the unusual situation of having solid economic growth, more jobs and rising wages at the same time as very low interest rates and inflation,” Mr English says. “This is helping New Zealand families get ahead.

“Households with mortgages have the double benefit of low cost of living rises and lower mortgage servicing costs, which will be particularly welcome in regions with increasing house prices.

“Since the start of 2012 the average annual wage has increased by more than 10 per cent to $57,800, considerably faster than inflation which has been only 3.1 per cent.”

An additional 175,000 jobs have been created over the last three years, with a further 173,000 expected by 2020.

“Overall, New Zealand is doing well and New Zealanders are reaping the benefit of a growing economy.”

When Don Brash was governor of the Reserve Bank he called inflation theft and it is, eroding the real value of money and investments.

Now, wage-rises outpacing inflation combined with low interest rates are giving households more spending power.

When people seek government help it usually requires more spending.

The government’s concentration on keeping a tight rein on its finances doesn’t usually get much credit but it is one way it can influence inflation and in doing so it protects and enhances the value of what people earn, invest and save.


OCR down .25 basis points

June 11, 2015

Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler has announced a small drop in the Official Cash Rate:

The Reserve Bank today reduced the Official Cash Rate (OCR) by 25 basis points to 3.25 percent.

Growth in the global economy remains moderate. Data on economic activity in the US, China and Australia has been mixed, although there has been some improvement in the euro area and Japan. Volatility in financial markets has increased.

The New Zealand economy is growing at an annual rate around three percent, supported by low interest rates, high net migration and construction activity, and the decline in fuel prices. However, the fall in export commodity prices that began in mid-2014 is proving more pronounced. The weaker prospects for dairy prices and the recent rises in petrol prices will slow income and demand growth and increase the risk that the return of inflation to the mid-point would be delayed.

Inflation has been low due to falling import prices and the strong growth in the economy’s supply potential. Wage inflation and inflation expectations have been subdued.

With the fall in commodity prices and the expected weakening in demand, the exchange rate has declined from its recent peak in April, but remains overvalued. A further significant downward adjustment is justified. In light of the forecast deterioration in the current account balance, such an exchange rate adjustment is needed to put New Zealand’s net external position on a more sustainable path.

House prices in Auckland continue to increase rapidly, and increased supply is needed to address this. The proposed LVR measures and the Government’s tax initiatives planned for 1 October 2015 should ease the impact of investor activity.

A reduction in the OCR is appropriate given low inflationary pressures and the expected weakening in demand, and to ensure that medium term inflation converges towards the middle of the target range.

We expect further easing may be appropriate. This will depend on the emerging data.

It’s good to see policies to address the supply side of the Auckland housing problem being acknowledged so that the rest of us aren’t paying in higher interest rates.


Good news x 2

April 20, 2015

Annual inflation is close to zero:

Cheap petrol has driven down the cost of living in the first three months of the year, pushing the annual inflation rate to a 15-year low.

The Consumers Price Index, a measure of inflation, declined by 0.3 per cent in the March quarter, Statistics New Zealand figures show. . .

Inflation erodes the real value of investments, the only good inflation is low inflation.

And another piece of good news Team New Zealand won’t receive any more public funding:

. . . Prime Minister John Key told TV ONE’s Breakfast this morning “I think it means the end of the road for any more government funding”.

“Realistically for us to get value there needed to be exposure for the America’s Cup team, there will be some obviously in Bermuda, but we think in our assessments it’s significantly reduced if the event is not hosted, in some way, in New Zealand.”

He said it would be “very difficult” to get the public to favour more tax payer dollars being sunk into Team New Zealand. . . .

More than  difficult, it would be  all but impossible to convince people that funding what most regard as a rich man’s sport and a team which appears to be dysfunctional would be good news of public funds.


Inflation targeting works

December 1, 2014

The Reserve Bank’s focus on inflation is working:

Inflation targeting has delivered price stability without reducing long-term growth, and remains the appropriate focus for monetary policy, Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler said today. . .

“Price stability has brought many benefits. It enables people to plan and contract with greater certainty for longer periods. It reduces the inflation risk premium in interest rates and the need for speculative inflation hedges, and it reduces the insidious toll that inflation exacts on the more vulnerable and less financially sophisticated,” Mr Wheeler said.

The opposition’s calls for a less rigorous approach to controlling inflation is foolish.

Inflation is theft, it erodes the real value of savings and that hits the poorest hardest.

“In the 20 years before the Act, annual real GDP growth averaged 2.2 percent while annual inflation was volatile around an average of 11.4 percent. Since 1990, real GDP growth and annual inflation have averaged 2.6 and 2.3 percent respectively, and there has been a marked decline in inflation variability.”

Mr Wheeler said the Reserve Bank is a ‘flexible inflation targeter’.

“We seek to anchor inflation expectations close to the price stability objective while retaining discretion to respond to inflation and output shocks in a flexible manner.”

This flexible, medium-term approach to policy was drawn on at the outset of the Global Financial Crisis when the Bank lowered the Official Cash Rate by almost 6 percentage points in 2008-2009, even though headline inflation was initially well above target. This policy stance was able to cushion the impact of the crisis.

In order to do its job effectively, Monetary Policy needs to be supported by prudent fiscal policy and sound structural adjustment policies. Monetary policy can affect the demand for housing and help ease imbalances in the housing market while supply is increased. But it cannot free up more land constrained by zoning regulations, address procedural and pricing issues around planning consents, offset tax policies in the housing sector, or raise productivity in the construction sector. . .

The tax and spend policies proffered by opposition parties before the election would have been inflationary and pushed up interest rates.

Housing prices reflect supply and demand. The best way to address that is to increase the supply where it’s not meeting demand. Local government has a big part of play in doing that by sensible zoning and simple and timely consent processes.

The full speech is here.


Saving at last

November 28, 2014

New Zealand finally has a positive savings trend:

New Zealand households have together saved more than they spent over the past five consecutive years – the first time this has happened since 1989-94, Finance Minister Bill English says.

The latest revised annual National Accounts (Income and Expenditure) compiled by Statistics New Zealand show aggregate household savings – which includes the impact of debt repayment – totalled $2.8 billion in the year ended March 2014.

This represents a positive savings rate of 2.1 per cent of household disposable income.

The revised figures show that before 2009 – the year after the National Government was first elected – the household savings rate had been negative in all but one year since 1995.

“This news is the latest in a series of results that show households are getting ahead and that the economy is steadily rebalancing towards higher savings and away from borrowing and consumption,” Mr English says.

“Combined with average hourly earnings growing more than twice as fast as inflation, a sustained period of historically low interest rates, falling unemployment and good economic growth, the household savings data adds to a picture of New Zealanders making sensible decisions to strengthen their own balance sheets.

“The Government, which has also kept tight control over its own spending during the same period, has made changes that have encouraged New Zealanders away from debt-funded consumption in favour of a more sustainable and secure position.

“Households have been nudged towards this by a combination of factors including the 2010 tax package which lowered taxes on income and savings and increased tax on consumption and property speculators.

“The Government has also pursued initiatives that have made investments more attractive, including the government share offer programme which  helped stimulate New Zealand’s capital markets. At the same time, we’ve tidied up the finance company sector to help protect depositors, and made KiwiSaver more affordable.  

“Many low-income households are still finding things tough . However, the overall picture supports a rebalancing of the economy away from the debt-fuelled consumer binge that occurred under the previous Labour government, to a growing culture of saving and investing.

“While this helps households get ahead, low inflation and restrained consumption contributes to government revenue being lower than it otherwise would be, again reinforcing the challenge of getting back to surplus.”

The reason we’re dependent on overseas borrowing is because we’ve been spending more than we saved ourselves.

At last we’re saving more than we spend.

The irony of that is lower spending means less GST and so makes it harder for the government to return to surplus.

While that will provide ammunition for the opposition the problem of that is political rather than economic.

Our economy is back on track to surplus and whether we get there this year or next, the economy is growing in a sustainable way without inflationary pressure.

 

Under National’s economic plan, New Zealand households have posted positive savings rates for five consecutive years – the first time this has happened since the early 1990s. #Working4NZ http://ntnl.org.nz/1veJ8oq


Left’s jiggery pokery won’t work

March 17, 2014

I find it difficult to understand the headless chookery that’s going on about the very small increase in the official cash rate from a historically low level.

People with income from interest-bearing investments will be pleased and while the rest of us who are paying more for loans might not like it, we knew it was coming.

It was well signalled and anyone with the slightest bit of financial acumen would have known the odds of a rise were far greater than a fall or keeping the rate at its historic low of 2.5%.

In spite of this the opposition and some commentators are playing at Chicken Little, acting like the sky is falling and inevitably calling on the government to do something.

Well, the government is doing something.

Finance Minister Bill English told TVNZ’s Q+A programme that the Government is doing all it can to help households affected by interest rate rises:

“There isn’t some kind of magic solution her like jiggery-pokery with the Reserve Bank Act, or pretending prices are lower than they are, which is what the Greens and Labour are promising. It’s about the kind of diligent hard work we’ve all been doing, not just this government but households and businesses, becoming more productive, more careful with our spending, getting debt down, a bit less consumption, and good control of inflation. So we have the opportunity here for a sustained economic recovery, and if we work on keeping our costs down, increasing our productivity, we could have four or five years where there are more jobs and higher incomes, and that’s what helps households get on top of increases in interest rates.”

The government’s careful management and strict control on its spending are two reasons interest rates have been so low for so long.

The need to keep on that path is just as great now the economy is growing because a government splashing cash around would fuel inflation which in turn would put pressure on interest rates.

He said this week’s OCR increase is due to the relative strength of our economy

“The small increase in interest rates that was announced the other day is an indication of the relative strength of our economy. There’s a lot of economies around the world would like to see some signs that interest rates were reflecting the fact that the economy’s growing. The other job we have is to support households and businesses by doing everything a government can to reduce pressure on what are inevitably rising interest rates and we’re pretty clear about that where we can influence that pressure, it’s around the housing market where we spent two or three years working on improving supply to the housing market. It’s around the labour market where we’re doing our best to align our training systems and migration with the skills that are needed in a tight labour market. . . 

If there was a magic solution every country in the world would have employed it.

There isn’t – there’s the jiggery pokery the opposition are threatening us with which won’t work, or the careful management and restrained spending which the National-led government is doing that is working.


Inflation hurts

March 13, 2014

Question of the day:

It was prompted by Labour’s threat to meddle with the Reserve Bank.

Inflation effectively cuts wages by reducing buying power and it erodes the value of savings.

Some Labour MPs were in government in the 1980s when inflation was nearly ten times higher than it is now and interest rates were in the mid to high 20s.

Have they forgotten, have they no influence on their caucus or do they just not care?


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