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Today’s Economic Roundup

Written By: - Date published: 10:16 am, March 10th, 2011 - 33 comments
Categories: business, economy, monetary policy - Tags:

The Reserve Bank has this morning slashed interest rates by 0.5%.

This is good news for mortgage-owners as the major banks have dropped their floating rates by the same amount.  It is less good news for drivers as this will continue the slide of the kiwi dollar, and the ever-rising oil prices will rise even faster in New Zealand dollar terms.  Expect to hit record petrol prices within a couple of weeks.

Bernard Hickey worries the cut will lock in inflation, with it already forecast to shortly rise over 5%.  Briscoes were already suggesting a lean year for importing retailers as people don’t buy and the rise in dollar cuts margins.

The Reserve Bank felt compelled to make the cut as the earthquake will mean that the likely 2 quarters of recession (last half of 2010, cause: National’s policies) will become a definite 3 quarters of recession as the earthquake wipes out any chance of improvement in the first part of this year.   And it’s also good news for our farmers with record commodity prices combining well with a weaker dollar meaning they get more NZ$ for their output.  Indeed a weaker dollar is generally better for the economy as it helps our exporters and discourages us from buying foreign goods – that’s why China keeps the yuan artificially low.

Away from that, with Auckland suffering a housing shortage, 15,000 families awaiting a Housing NZ home, and now 10,000 homes in Christchurch destroyed and needing replacing, Sovereign Homes has gone into liquidation due to a lack of new building.  Formerly employed skilled tradesmen are joining the exodus overseas.  Like a number of firms, Sovereign struggled through 2008 & 2009, only to be taken out by National’s double-dip recession.  Economists expect more firms to follow suit.

33 comments on “Today’s Economic Roundup”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    We’ve got an economy under the strain of surging inflation and a double dip recession. Bill English’s only “solution” seems to be the final solution.

    After three years of National we’ve got the most serious economic death spiral on our hands since the 1930’s. What is worse, Bill English and John Key are in total denial – they are actually claiming people are better off! Jesus wept.

    They have not got a single idea what to do next, beyond more from the Herbert Hoover playbook of economic disaster.

    • ZeeBop 1.1

      We have a housing shortage, a exodus of skills, a government that excels in adding extra uncertainty to the mix in their useless leadership of delusion and lies. Citizens make our economy and citizens are voting with their feet heading for the airport. National think nothing about raiding savings, pushing wages lower, pouring water on safety nets forcing employees to travel with a larger financial buffer and hold off buying a home. Oil prices are up again! National have done nothing for two years as everyone knew they would return! How can anyone still trust National?

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    Stagflation

    Strangely, many economists don’t think it can happen (according to their BS monetary theories), but those who do often see it as a result of a massive bubble bursting resulting in high unemployment yet increasing prices from the left over concentrated wealth of the bubble.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stagflation

    Bill and John won’t know how to cope with this situation. They have a couple of months tops to set things right or the next Labour Govt will have a shitload of firefighting work to do next year.

    • Rosy 2.1

      “Strangely, many economists don’t think it can happen”
      Weren’t they around in the 1970s?

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        Yes you are quite correct. They didn’t think it could happen at that time, and then it did happen, (after which of course they had to concede it was a possibility) but their theories AFAIK are still extremely uncertain as to what caused it and whether it could happen again.

        The original idea was simple – in times of high unemployment, aggregate demand in the economy would fall, hence inflation would be low. That’s not the way it panned out in the 1970’s as you know. Rising fuel prices then (oil shocks) were a major contributor. And we may be facing oil shocks again in the next year.

        • Bored 2.1.1.1

          History never repeats….yeah right.

          The vast majority of economists follow the established orthodoxy, which I say cynically is very linked to their paymasters best interests. This gives a massive incentive to remain orthodox even when all evidence is to the contrary, selective vision being the symptom. Its been the same with tea leaf readers, chickens entrail examiners and other high priests since forever.

          One thing the economists are going to find very hard to get their thinking around is not only stagflation but also the end of “growth” as they currently measure it. Schumakers Small Is Beautiful is a good place for them to start.

        • The Economic Illiteracy Support Group 2.1.1.2

          In this case the cause of stagflation is easy to spot – there are hard limits being reached on essential economic inputs such as oil and metals, which is driving up import prices. This is effectively “imported inflation” which is 100% resistant to any Reserve Bank policies; the inflation due to demand outrunning supply in the world markets will occur no matter what the interest rates are in NZ.

          So we are stuck in a strange hybrid world – the external economy is inflating as demand outruns supply, but the internally traded NZ economy is heavily deflationary as local growth contracts; hence stagflation. The effect can be seen in your weekly grocery bill (or petrol tank fill) where anything that is traded internationally as a commodity (petrol, milk, wheat) or which depends on one of those commodities as an input is rapidly increasing in price. On the other side of the equation, the value of locally produced goods and services that are not critically dependent on commodities (say, a haircut) are decreasing in value as too much supply chases too little demand. This will continue until demand destruction due to high prices in the commodity markets occurs, and prices fall internationally, eventually flowing through to the local NZ economy.

          Thankfully Alan Bollard is not the extremist ideologue that Don Brash was, and seems to recognise that the internal deflationary challenges are where he should be focusing his attention, rather than trying to choke off imported inflation by increasing interest rates (which is an insane policy almost by definition).

          And just as an aside, the country’s experience over the last 12 months indicates that strongly rising prices for our international commodities (i.e. dairy) completely fail to flow through to the wider economy. The benefits of high dairy prices are felt amongst Fonterra’s 11,000 shareholders and their direct suppliers, but not much wider than that If commodity prices were a magic bullet, the country would not have gone into recession in the fourth quarter of last year.

          • Colonial Viper 2.1.1.2.1

            This will continue until demand destruction due to high prices in the commodity markets occurs, and prices fall internationally, eventually flowing through to the local NZ economy.

            Unfortunately when we talk about “demand destruction” surrounding dairy, hort and ag products we’re basically talking about starvation in many quarters of the developing world, combined with food poverty in the developed world. Yeah that should be an oxymoron I know.

            • The Economic Illiteracy Support Group 2.1.1.2.1.1

              Given that the current neoliberal orthodoxy only allows one kind of rationing – price – I think you’re entirely right. I do wonder what people in a few hundred years time will think of that kind of moral bankruptcy.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      From what I can make out, stagflation is a result of the fact that fixed costs cannot be removed. This means that every business needs a minimum income to cover those costs but, with rising unemployment, more and more people spend less reducing turnover which means that profit on each individual item needs to be higher to get the same total return.

      Businesses are putting up prices to cover their fixed costs (which are also rising) as turnover reduces due to unemployment and laying off people to minimise their variable costs which reduces turnover.

      • Herodotus 2.2.1

        DTB not just fixed costs – So not only are nontradables going up e.g. power, rates. But also what our economy is based on oil, but this is compounded by the commencement of a devaluing currancy, which then negates what has previously kept inflation low – Imported consumables.
        In your “with rising unemployment, more and more people spend less reducing turnover which means that profit on each individual item needs to be higher to get the same total return.” there are only a very few industries that are able to do this – primarily The Banks, Power coys, potentially supermarkets . Around either 7:15 or just after 8:00 on ZB there was a spokesperson for NZIER and Bank economist talking about chances of OCR cut. The NZIER even commented regarding the banks ongoing profitable levels being maintained.

        • Colonial Viper 2.2.1.1

          Banks have become a parasitic leach on the economy.

          Even as the host turns anaemic and pale they keep sucking at the same rate.

  3. Pascal's bookie 3

    P1)We have an independent reserve bank tasked soley with monetary stability.

    P2)We have inflation running at around 4-5%

    P3)The official base rate was just cut to 2.5%, or about half the current inflation rate.

    ergo

    C) Is that the time? Goodness me.

  4. Bored 4

    For all you watchers of trends….the DOW Jones average which was at 14000 in October 2008, crashed to around 7000 in March 2009. With the bailout it has run back up to 12000 today.

    Oil in September 2008 spiked to US$120 per barrel…it has increased in the last month by 20% to US$105, with Brent Crude reaching US$118. Concurrently corn has increased in price during the last year by 93%.

    We in NZ are at the periphery of the empire. They sneeze, we catch colds. Draw your own conclusions.

  5. Salsy 5

    The company i work for just announced we are going to be forced to do a 4 day week. It feels like the beginning of the end – theyve been losing money for a while now. My partner works so if i lose my job we still survive plus I can freelance. What worries me the most, is all the people who have families and mortgages depending on that income, really sad…

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      Can the company do better than it is at the moment?

      Could the employees buy it out for nothing and turn it into a worker owned co-op?

      • neoleftie 5.1.1

        ohhh that is interesting..actaully if the govt can loan money to the mediacorp then why not set up a fund at no or small interest and loan it for start-up worker Co-ops.
        Will look for productivity figures based on Co-ops vs traditional ownership models

  6. neoleftie 6

    well the oucome is looking increasingly dark – did you notice the bodylanguage and language of bollard – “Uncertainity”, “I hope” and “unknown” were some of the words used to discribe the current economic situation. Cutting the ORC is all well and good but wage rise pressure ( RAISED MIN WAGE ) and increased import prices are all causing inflationary effects.
    The system is very very unbalanced and spiraling downwards.
    Interest rate have fallen already in response to the fall in the ORC but this just wont stimulate internal business investment to the levels needed to stabilise the job market, decrease unemployment and in turn increase private spending. Businesses are struggling now, profits down,..spiraling out control..

    Tories are in a massive bind now..
    1) can they reprioritise spending without casuing unemplyment to rise? ( peter to paul )
    2) can they borrow more to prop up the economy? prudent advice suggests no.
    3) they cant cut the tax rake as there is a projected short-fall over the next 3 years.
    4) the cant print more – too many inflationary influencers now.

    options anyone???
    Look to cunliffe to expand the tax rake
    – tax short-term monetary flows.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 6.1

      If you adopt 4) you don’t need to worry about 2). The increased tax take due to improved spending will mean you don’t need to worry about 1) or 3) either.

      What about inflation you say? Well things like oil prices, food prices and insurance aren’t affected by anything they do- so whats the harm, its not like NZ businesses or strapped for work and customers at the moment.

    • Colonial Viper 6.2

      The Tories actually have some options, but they will not consider them seriously because they are ideologically incongruent with what National has already planned out.

      As someone else mentioned today, large portions of the inflation NZ is experiencing is imported inflation. Nothing we do onshore is going to affect that. Food prices are high because we are being forced to pay global rates, not because we are willing and able to pay more for milk. Changes in the OCR or printing money won’t change that. Petrol is high because we are being forced to pay global rates, not because we are able and willing to pay more for premium. Changes in the OCR or printing money won’t change that.

      Further, why should annual inflation of 5% or 6% be considered a problem, when unemployment at close to 7% is no big deal?

      What I would suggest –

      1) Tax and spend. Create direct employment, bump up benefits, expand services and facilities for citizens, lower the low band income tax rate. This will push money into the economy.

      2) Destroy debt. Print every adult NZ citizen a cheque for $1000 which can be used only to pay down bank and utilities debt incurred before 2011. (A slightly higher level of inflation destroys debt faster as well).

      3) Low interest, low fee loans to productive enterprises for capital equipment. (e.g. through KiwiBank)

      If it becomes necessary to control inflation.
      – Jack up the income tax rate on higher earners and middle income
      – Raise bank CFR
      – Increase compulsory element of KiwiSaver.
      – Make it harder to qualify for personal loans and loans for 2nd and 3rd properties.

      In general we also have to reduce our use of oil because oil is gonna be very expensive.

      edit – I see Zaphod you made some similar points

      • neoleftie 6.2.1

        Yes CV but tax who and at what rate? realistically.
        We cant print money as this is hugely inflationary, obviously we face enough inflationary measure offshore that is impacting on consumable prices lessening spending.
        This is hunker down / batten the hatches time for the private sector facing huge uncertainity.
        The state must step up expenditure but how?
        See we are in a bind even with the ten billion of offshore insuance money that is going to flood into the economy in about 6 – 18 months

        • Rosy 6.2.1.1

          A robin hood tax I’m still trying to see the downside on this. The financiers that caused the problem shoulder some of the burden.

          • neoleftie 6.2.1.1.1

            that Rosy is something that all those of the wide left totally agree about…ping the hotmoney men, the speculators who just take take take and do nothing for the common person apart from massive contributions in private spending.

            • Rosy 6.2.1.1.1.1

              Meanwhile we sit on our hands waiting for Labour to provide more background on their economic policy.

              • Herodotus

                A robin hood tax I’m still trying to see the downside on this. Whilst we have a base current aqcount deficit – Sure since Nat got in this has reduced from 8% to about 2%. Much of this is attributable to that NZ took heed of our debt problem, many individuals/families cut expenditure and reduced debt due to the foreseable looming issue that is here. Uncertainity of jobs.
                The issue is globalisation – NZ legistales for this tax – Multi nats look else where where their money earns greater returns for marginal risk (remember that as our debt levels increase and there are only a few industries that ean there way here) our risk profile increases and we pay premiums for offshore money. So there is potential exit offshore NZ then goes back to the late 70’s when govt had to control money flows. Farmers had to have offshore $ to buy cars machinery etc. How else could this effect us – lack of immigrants wanting to enter, lack of repatriation, reduced offshore technol;ogy e.g. up to date medical facilities. And unlike your link NZ is not a financial hub yet ( it will come JK has this as an aim ) with institutionalised banking system as London is.
                then there are multi nat who just float around the world utilising arbitage leverage to pick and choose what is best for them. e.g.
                http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-21/google-2-4-rate-shows-how-60-billion-u-s-revenue-lost-to-tax-loopholes.html
                defination of Arbitage Leverage for assistance
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arbitrage
                Unfortunately we are price takers, having to accept whatever the world will offer to us, not price setters.
                And printing more $$ does not contribute much to the money supply. Think of all the kiwi$ that have been created out of nowhere bythe banks
                http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/inflation/money-supply-inflation/
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_supply
                Must be getting late and I am being lazy 2 wiki links in one post !!!

                • Rosy

                  These links make me even keener on a transaction tax limited to speculative financial transactions.
                  “The German and French governments are both pushing this; Austria and Spain are in support and today the European parliament threw its weight behind a tiny tax on financial transactions that could help us fulfil our commitments to tackling poverty and climate change, and help prevent such huge cuts in public spending…The European politicians voted on resolutions that concluded that if imposing the financial transaction tax worldwide was too difficult, then the EU should press ahead and impose it at a European level.”

                  Even the IMF believe financial institutions should be subject to new taxes, although it favours a bank levy and a financial activities tax on the sector’s profits and pay . Although as you point out banks can avoid profit-based taxes as Barclays has shown. A tax on speculative transactions would be far harder to avoid.

        • Zaphod Beeblebrox 6.2.1.2

          Govt bonds, low interest rates or printing money. What’s the diff?

          • neoleftie 6.2.1.2.1

            depends on the mix and inflationary affect

            • Zaphod Beeblebrox 6.2.1.2.1.1

              With low interest rates the money is borrowed from off-shore with the others you don’t have to borrow a cent. If you have excess human and economic capacity I really don’t see whats the problem with creating more of your currency.

              The US Fed did it and are they are hardly having horrendous inflationary problems.

              Japan responded to their economic slowdown in the 1990s by choking off government spending and they ended up with zero interest rates and virtual deflation- didn’t work out well for them.

        • Colonial Viper 6.2.1.3

          In an industrialised productive economy with high unemployment printing money is not inflationary.

          If that money is used to destroy debt for instance, and not put into general spending, it definitely is not inflationary.

          If that money is put into productive equipment, it definitely is not inflationary.

          You asked who we should tax. I would say that is the wrong question. The correct question is what should we tax. And the answer is – assets and land/property. Possibly also financial transactions.

          The state must step up expenditure but how?

          I already told you in this posts and above. Start cutting cheques for people to use. Start employing people directly. Get projects on the boil.

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