26 Apr 2023

Economy may avoid technical recession in latest quarter, ANZ says

2:35 pm on 26 April 2023
Money loss, Business concept. Gold coin stacks. Finance down with world map and cityscape background.

The bank's chief economist says ANZ still believes recession is coming, probably in the third quarter. Photo: 123RF

ANZ economists say the economy may escape a further fall in growth in the first quarter of the year, thus avoiding a technical recession.

The bank's latest Truckometer showed a 4.6 percent lift in light traffic in March on the previous month, the highest in seven months, while its heavy traffic index increased 2.7 percent.

Chief economist Sharon Zollner said the numbers had to be treated with some caution given the disruption of lockdowns and the impact of the recent floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.

"Overall the data can be characterised as consistent with consumer spending cooling as RBNZ [the Reserve Bank of New Zealand] rate hikes continue to bite."

The light traffic measure is an indication of consumer spending while the heavy traffic index points to economic production.

"Over the March quarter the heavy traffic index was up 1.1 percent, on the face of it suggesting an upside risk to our expectation that the economy eked out modest growth of 0.2 percent quarter on quarter following the weakness in the fourth quarter," Zollner said.

The economy shrank by a surprise 0.6 percent in the three months ended December.

"So far, heavy traffic is not showing anything like the sharp declines seen in the global financial crisis."

Zollner said if the economy contracted in the first quarter it would most likely be "noise" around supply-side and weather impacts.

"That doesn't mean a recession isn't coming ... we are forecasting the 'real' recession to start in the third quarter of this year."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs