Harbour Navigator: Understanding the RBNZ’s recent hawkish shift
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) surprised many at its November Monetary Policy Statement (MPS) with a more hawkish view of recent economic developments. While we don’t necessarily view the skew in economic risks the same way, we recognise the high degree of uncertainty in the economic outlook and the importance of understanding the central bank’s point of view.
At the heart of the RBNZ’s hawkish shift are two factors: h...
Harbour Outlook: Economic Crosscurrents
- The MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) continued its decline, posting a -2.7% loss in New Zealand dollar-hedged terms (and a 0.2% gain in unhedged NZD terms). Despite three consecutive months of negative returns, the 12-month return figure for the index stands at 9.5% in NZD-hedged terms and 10.4% in unhedged terms.
- Returns for the month were similarly weak in local markets, with the S&P/NZX 50 Gross Index (with imputation credits) falling -4.8%, and the S&P/ASX 200 Index falling -3.8% (-2.4% in New Zealand dollar terms).
- Bond indices were also negative over the month. The Bloomberg NZ Bond Composite 0+ Yr Index fell -0.2%, whilst the Bloomberg Global Aggregate Bond Index (hedged to NZD) also dropped -0.7% over the month. This came as the US market saw 10-year government yields increase to 4.9%, a level not seen since 2007, with resilience in US economic data prompting the market to largely unwind an expectation that the Federal Reserve would be cutting rates in 2024.
Harbour Outlook: Higher for longer, but how much longer?
The MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) declined for the second month in a row, posting a -5.0% return in unhedged New Zealand dollar terms (-3.4% in hedged terms after strengthening in the New Zealand dollar). Returns were similarly weak in local markets, with the S&P/NZX 50 Gross Index (with imputation credits) falling -1.9%, and the S&P/ASX 200 Index falling -2.8% (-4.1% in New Zealand dollar terms).
Globally, weakness was...
Harbour Navigator: After the inflation peak
Investors should gradually gain confidence in most assets, as pessimism in the outlook for the economy gives way to understanding that highly restrictive monetary policy has done its job.
Despite the range of risks for financial markets, falling inflation has certainly been a positive factor for broad investment returns. Up until recently equity markets have also enjoyed a period of generally better than expected corporate ea...
Harbour Navigator: Is inflation sticky?
After an aggressive RBNZ tightening cycle, the New Zealand economy is likely to enter recession later this year.
Inflation, however, is unlikely to quickly return to the RBNZ’s 1-3% target range and involves three broad steps – supply chain normalisation, lower housing costs and a drop in wage growth. Only the first step is complete.
We expect the RBNZ to increasingly recognise the impact of its rapid rate hikes to highly...
Harbour Navigator: Fortress Australia
The banking system in Australia has multiple points of difference compared to the US, all pointing to a greater capacity to weather financial and economic stress. What we heard in our visit to Australia this week was exceptionalism and resilience in the banking system.
“A show of force” is how the Australian Financial Review subsequently described their Summit. In previous years you might have heard the regulators bemoan the ...
Harbour Navigator: RBNZ not done yet but getting close
The RBNZ lifted the OCR by 50bps at the February MPS and continues to anticipate further tightening from the current 4.75% to 5.5% as inflation remains too high and labour markets are too tight for comfort.
The North Island floods are likely to add to inflation and activity in the medium term. Beyond the floods, the tension between strong historical data and weak forward indicators continues in New Zealand – we believe the...
Harbour Navigator: Inflation moderating but not yet tamed
Inflation may have peaked, reducing the risks of severe monetary policy tightening and a deep recession.
Supply chains are partly normalising and slowing demand in most economies is reducing extreme pressures on prices.
Tight labour markets, however, are placing upward pressure on wages and the current high inflation rates mean that central banks may retain a tightening bias for some time.
Global economic growth has slowed mor...
Controlling inflation is a key pillar to calm markets
Central banks are focussed on bringing down inflation
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand amongst the earliest to hike rates and now others are moving rapidly
Sharp interest rate rises are now largely baked into financial markets
Lowering inflation is the best outcome for businesses and ultimately households
We think expectations of a cash rate of 4.6% by May 2023, is excessive although markets will continue to monitor inflation ...
The end of the “Great Moderation”?
Most economists expect historically high inflation to moderate over the next year, but the near-term outlook is uncertain.
Over the long term, changing structural inflation forces may create even greater uncertainty for investors.
The possible end of the great moderation – the period of relatively benign economic cycles - that has prevailed for most of the past 40 years - may see fixed income investors seek greater compensat...
Central banks forced to prioritise inflation over growth
Inflation has risen sharply over the past year. What was initially expected to be transitory has become more widespread and persistent, with signs that price rises are being seen as the new norm.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is adding to already-high global inflation, while also reducing growth prospects.
With inflation dangerously high, central banks (including the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ)) are backed into a corn...
Exorcising New Zealand’s inflation demon
- NZ inflation has rapidly accelerated and the RBNZ has started to raise rates to exorcise this demon
- We think inflation pressures go beyond transitory and will require further policy tightening
- This carries risks for asset prices and the latest Omicron COVID-19 variant suggests some volatility is likely along the way
Inflation risks building
- Inflation is likely to surge through the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s (RBNZ) 2% target in the coming months, reflecting mostly temporary factors that could easily reverse.
- But there is a risk that inflation becomes more persistent, something the market may be underestimating.
- We think medium-term inflation risks are skewed to the upside and have positioned portfolios accordingly.
When will central banks react to inflation?
- Higher inflation and the prospect of a reduction in central bank support is becoming a concern among financial market participants.
- We think this risk is low given most economies have spare capacity that is keeping unemployment rates higher and inflation lower than central banks desire.
- The ongoing threat of higher inflation and reduced monetary stimulus, however, is likely to lead to choppy trading conditions as investors manage the transition away from the low inflation and falling interest rate environment seen in recent years.
- We hope that the following Q&A gives you an insight into our thought process.