Borrowers warned not to get complacent

There is no immediate need for borrowers to undertake urgency this year but BNZ economist Kymberly Martin is warning against complacency.

Most economists are picking the Reserve Bank to hold off lifting the official cash rate from the current 2.5% until at least late this year.

New Zealand swap yields had finished the year not far from where they started. Yields rose sharply at the end of March last year as European concerns eased and the market anticipated Reserve Bank rate hikes.

Subsequently, as rate hike expectations faded, yields fell back and settled into a steady trading range for the second half of the year.

Ms Martin said the New Zealand interest-rate curve flattened notably until midyear, also finding a steady trading range in the second half of the year.

Overall, bank funding costs had remained elevated as banks worked towards the January 1 deadline to meet Reserve Bank liquidity policy targets.

''Still, sharp spikes in short-term funding costs, resulting from stress in global markets, have been absent during the year.''

Borrowing trends had bottomed out across all sectorsof the economy. However, the pick-up in loan growth hadbeen muted, she said.

Despite that, the BNZ anticipated market expectations regarding the OCR to wax and wane as they had over the past year.

BNZ forecasts for short-end yields were for them to remain largely range-bound in the first three months.

''We see a first OCR hike in December 2013. We expect the cash rate to move progressively back towards neutral, reaching 4.25% by the end of 2014.''

For much of the year, data and Reserve Bank rhetoric would probably provide little to dissuade the market of its view the rate hiking cycle would have a very gradual gradient once under way, Ms Martin said.

''It is really only in 2014 that we expect markets to be surprised by the steepness of the OCR trajectory and for yields to rise more aggressively.''

Late this year, there should be some pre-positioning for that scenario. The BNZ was forecasting a two-year swap rate of 3.4% by December, from the current 2.74%.


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