Delay raising cash rate, CTU says

A delay in lifting the official cash rate will help manufacturers by keeping the dollar lower. Photo by ODT.
A delay in lifting the official cash rate will help manufacturers by keeping the dollar lower. Photo by ODT.
The Reserve Bank is being urged to take a wider view of the economy as it prepares for its official cash rate decision tomorrow.

The Council of Trade Unions is urging the central bank to delay lifting the cash rate to 3.5%, saying it will slow investment by many firms.

CTU economist Bill Rosenberg said yesterday the Reserve Bank needed wider objectives so it took employment into account in its policies, as happened in Australia.

The Reserve Bank of Australia says its ''duty is to contribute to the stability of the currency, full employment and economic prosperity and welfare of the Australian people''.

''The Reserve Bank needs to broaden the policies it uses so it is less reliant on interest rates which affect the exchange rate and investment.''

It could make more use of capital requirements for banks and other lenders, targeting particular types of lending, he said.

It could also directly regulate their use of overseas funding, which drove the exchange rate up as overseas investors chased higher interest rates available in New Zealand.

That could include a financial transactions tax on coming funds.

Alongside those capital management policy tools, some direct participation in the foreign exchange market might have some effect, Mr Rosenberg said.

''Another rise in interest rates will raise the dollar further, striking another blow at high-value manufacturing industries who are exporting or competing with imports.''

Firms laying off staff said they were not seeing a ''rock-star economy'', he said.

Harbour Asset Management adviser Christian Hawkesby believes the OCR decision was now a 50-50 call and the Reserve Bank would be justified if it decided to pause and take stock.

Most observers were still forecasting the Reserve Bank to lift the OCR 0.25% tomorrow but pause until either December or January before again increasing interest rates.

Mr Hawkesby said up until recently, things had been running smoothly for the Reserve Bank.

In March, the bank began a well-signalled hiking cycle, making a convincing case its actions were designed to ensure a sustainable economic expansion and keep future inflation near 2%.

However, the Reserve Bank was always careful to emphasise all future decisions were contingent on how the economy was evolving.

''Put simply, the strongest reason to hike is to deliver on market expectations in an environment where the economy is still doing well.

"The strongest reason to delay is to acknowledge the facts have changed and the urgency to lift rates in the first half of 2014 has abated somewhat.

"We think it's a genuine 50-50 call,'' Mr Hawkesby said.

Faced with the uncertainty, the bank could justifiably wait until it undertook a full economic forecast in September.

The most important part of the Reserve Bank's decision tomorrow would be the signal it would provide on future rate hikes, he said.

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research's Monetary Policy Shadow Board recommended the Reserve Bank lift the cash rate tomorrow, but with caution.

Support within the Shadow Board for an interest rate hike was mixed but a hike just received more support than leaving rates on hold.

''The Reserve Bank is in a tight spot and needs to be careful,'' NZIER principal economist Kirdan Lees said

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