17 Mar 2014

PSI resets after strong start - O'Reilly

7:19 pm on 17 March 2014

The services sector eased last month, with a dip in new orders and activity contracting in the Canterbury Westland region.

The Bank of New Zealand-Business NZ Performance of Services (PSI) index fell 4.7 points to 53.1 in February.

The Canterbury/Westland region fell to 43.4 points from being barely positive in January, possibly due to poor weather and capacity constraints.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion, and the index has fallen from a high base in January, when it recorded the highest level of activity since November 2007.

Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O'Reilly said the index was still showing expansion, and it was not a surprise that it came back after the strong January.

"What we saw in February was a slight moderation on the Performance of Services Index post a very, very strong January," he said.

"What we're seeing here is a little bit of lumpiness around the numbers for the PSI. I'm not concerned about that but certainly new orders took a bit of a dive this month."

Mr O'Reilly said that could be "just some monthly noise" but that it would be worth keeping and eye on new orders; it would be cause for concern if they continued to fall.

The new orders component of the index fell 10.7 points last month, the biggest monthly drop since the survey began seven years ago, but the bank did not see this as a cause for concern as that sub-index experienced a spike in January.

"I think what you're seeing here is the economy kind of swallowing down that very, very significant growth in January and sort of resetting itself for the next period of growth."

The numbers being seen in the manufacturing sector, and in business confidence more generally, suggested there was nothing much to worry about, Mr O'Reilly said.