11 Sep 2014

Official cash rate unchanged at 3.5%

2:40 pm on 11 September 2014

The Reserve Bank has left the official cash rate at 3.5 percent as expected.

The economy is expected to grow at an annual pace of 3.7 percent this year, although the central bank's Governor Graeme Wheeler said economic growth had slowed due to lower global dairy and log prices, a high dollar and rising interest rates.

Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler

Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

"Economic growth is projected to moderate to around 2.75 percent next year due to the recent decline in commodity prices and the impact of policy tightening," he said.

"The high exchange rate continues to restrain growth."

Mr Wheeler also said house price growth continued to ease, despite stronger immigration.

Price growth remained in check, which Mr Wheeler attributed to firms investing to expand their operations, while inflation expectations had fallen to the middle of the Reserve Bank's target band of 1 to 3 percent.

The central bank reiterated that rates would remain on hold for now.

But Mr Wheeler warned he expected to lift interest rates in the future, because the economic expansion driven by the rebuilding of Canterbury and rising migration would continue to soak up spare productive capacity.

"We think a neutral interest rate is probably around 4.5 percent, so we're essentially about 100 basis points below neutral," he said.

"So in that sense, we're still acting in a stimulatory way in terms of impetus to growth, even though we have tightened four times."

Director of economics at First NZ Capital Chris Green said it was probably the key change since the last monetary policy statement in June.

"We've seen some dampening of the New Zealand dollar as a result, but that's probably the clearest indication that the Reserve Bank has reassessed the degree of increase and interest rates going forward," he said.

"It also suggests that the next OCR increase is likely to be in the first half of 2015, so clearly no expectation that we will see a rate rise this year."

The central bank has pared back the number of future hikes due to slowing growth, with the official cash rate set to peak at 4.75 percent by September 2017, compared with 5.25 percent in the June set of forecasts.

It still expected another rate hike by the end of the year, although most economists think the next increase in the official cash rate will not be until March next year.

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