Harbour Outlook: Markets ponder higher inflation
- Global equity markets delivered strong returns in May, up 1.6% in US dollars. Cyclical stocks continued to outperform, helping lift the Australian market by 2.3%. New Zealand shares underperformed, down 3.2% over the month.
- Bonds delivered a negative return, with the Bloomberg NZ Bond Composite Index down -0.7%.
- US economic data have been mixed over the past month and should benefit over the coming year as consumers spend a portion of the US$1.8trn of excess savings built up since COVID-19. US job growth unexpectedly moderated in April and the unemployment rate increased. CPI inflation was surprisingly high at 4.2% year on year.
It’s not easy being green
- The Climate Change Commission’s final advice to the Government is due to be released next Wednesday. This follows a review of interested party submissions and feedback from the initial draft report.
- We do not see the key draft recommendations changing, but at the margin we might see some alterations to the Commission’s recommendations.
Are retail interest rates about to rise?
- Despite substantial increases in wholesale interest rates over the past 6 months, retail rates have mostly declined as the Reserve Bank of New Zealand has kept the Official Cash Rate unchanged and offered cheap bank funding through its Funding for Lending Programme.
- The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is now more confident in the economic outlook and forecasts a larger amount of interest rate hikes than markets currently expect, beginning in Q3 next year.
- As financial markets price the prospect of earlier and more rate hikes, increasing banks’ wholesale funding costs, retail interest rates are likely to rise, starting with 2-year and longer mortgage rates over coming months, while meaningful increases in term deposit rates may happen later and be more gradual.
REINZ data shines a light
- The housing market holds firm in first read post significant policy changes
- Yesterday’s Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) data is the most significant indicator of the housing market since the significant policy changes introduced on 31 March.
- This relatively strong data suggests that it takes both supply and time to cool a housing market
Harbour Outlook: Better earnings, falling yields see equity markets higher
- The New Zealand equity market (S&P/NZX 50 Gross with imputation) finished the month up 1.4%. The Australian equity market (S&P ASX 200) outperformed, rising 3.5% for the month (2.2% in NZD). The performance of global equities was also strong with the MSCI All Country World Index up 4.2% (+1.9% in NZD).
- Bonds generated a positive return, with the Bloomberg NZ Bond Composite Index up 0.7%.
- The US Earnings Season delivered strong results. At the time of writing 438 companies have reported, with 380 beating consensus earnings expectations.
- Vaccinations have gathered speed in the US and Europe; 45% of people in the US and 25% in large euro area countries have received at least one vaccine dose. The New Zealand vaccination programme has started and is expected to ramp up significantly in coming months. We will be watchful for key milestones.
Are the lights going to go out?
- Hydro lake storage is at about 60% of normal levels; low lake levels may provide risks to the near-term earnings of the electricity sector.
- Commercial electricity users on spot power pricing are facing significant cost increases.
- Dry conditions may mean we burn more coal and gas, which highlights the importance of more investment in geothermal and wind energy projects.
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.
Harbour Outlook: Markets balance higher earnings and yields
- Both New Zealand equity and bond market returns bounced back in March with the S&P/NZX 50 index returning 2.7% and the Bloomberg NZ Bond Composite 0+ year Index returning 0.6%.
- Globally vaccine programmes have gained speed, with the US and UK (alongside Israel) leading the way. The European vaccine rollout has been significantly slower, making re-opening difficult for many nations in the area as they battle rising infections.
- Following changes in New Zealand residential property “bright line” tests and tax deductions on investment properties, expectations of New Zealand’s official cash rate (OCR) increasing were pushed out, contributing to lower bond yields, as well as the New Zealand dollar weakening.
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Still a large gap in New Zealand output
- The New Zealand economy shrank at the end of last year as the construction sector struggled to find the resources to continue to expand, while retail trade and accommodation activity dropped due to a lack of tourists.
- New Zealand is in a better position than many other economies, but there is still a gap between our potential output and where we are currently tracking, which is acting as a disinflationary force.
- It seems unlikely that the RBNZ will hike rate hikes in the next year; they have many other actions they could take before contemplating interest rate hikes.
- Longer-dated bond yields could be led higher by offshore developments as global growth beats expectations.