Economists picking 0-0.2% increase

Michael Gordon.
Michael Gordon.
Inflation figures due for the December quarter are expected to remain flat, the annual rate sitting at around 1.9%.

Following record fuel prices late last year, oil prices plunged almost 40%, taking pressure off the likelihood inflation will rise further.

The Stats NZ inflation data from the consumer price index (CPI) is due out today. The other main release this week will be migration figures on Friday.

The Reserve Bank's inflation target range is 1% to 3% and its annual rate is sitting at 1.9% at present.

The Reserve Bank has forecast 0.2% inflation for the quarter to December and 2% for calendar 2018, while many economists are expecting either a zero or just 0.1% increase.

Westpac senior economist Michael Gordon expects a 0.1% rise in prices for the December quarter, which would maintain the annual rate at 1.9%.

''Not long ago it seemed likely that inflation would end the year above the Reserve Bank's 2% target midpoint, as fuel prices spiralled higher,'' he said.

''But the subsequent plunge in oil prices has taken some of the pressure off.''

The head of wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners, Mark Lister, said the more interesting and relevant measure would be the non-tradeables inflation measure, which tallies prices for things not internationally traded, such as rents and other housing costs such as utilities, BusinessDesk reported.

''This will be much more reflective of how strong underlying inflationary pressures are in New Zealand,'' Mr Lister said.

''It wouldn't be a surprise to see this come through a little stronger than some are expecting.''

ASB Bank economist Kim Mundy is forecasting a flat December quarter. She expects non-tradeable inflation will have risen 0.5%, taking the annual increase to 2.6%, slightly above the Reserve Bank's 2.5% forecast.

But the Reserve Bank's own measure of core inflation, including the prices of internationally traded goods, is likely to remain at 1.7% for the year, where it has sat since June last year.

''As a result, the Reserve Bank is likely to remain comfortable leaving monetary policy settings unchanged and maintain the view that underlying inflation pressures will slowly build,'' Ms Mundy said.

Most economists expect the interest-driving official cash rate of 1.75% to stay in place until mid to late 2020. - Additional reporting BusinessDesk

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