The chief economist of the Reserve Bank seems to have tempered expectations of imminent interest rate cuts. In a highly anticipated speech, Paul Conway indicated that the recent swift increases in the official cash rate (OCR), reaching 5.5 percent in May, have effectively achieved the desired outcome of curbing inflation. Recent data reflected a slowdown in the annual inflation rate to 4.7 percent.
During an online presentation, Conway acknowledged the effectiveness of monetary policy in slowing down the economy and reducing inflation. However, he emphasized that there is still progress to be made. When asked about the potential impact of the slower inflation figures and the unexpected economic contraction on future rate decisions, Conway refrained from providing specifics. He mentioned that the Monetary Policy Committee would address these matters in its first monetary statement of the year at the end of the upcoming month.
While careful not to disclose details about the future trajectory of the OCR, Conway highlighted that the surprise economic contraction in the September quarter might not necessarily indicate a significant reduction in demand. He pointed out that non-tradable inflation, a gauge of domestic price pressures, remained high, indicating that there is more work to be done in bringing it down.
In its November monetary statement, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) indicated that no rate cuts are likely before the middle of 2025, despite financial markets pricing in at least two cuts this year, potentially as early as May. Conway attributed the sustained demand and increases in rents and rates to robust migration gains over the past year.
ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner commented that Conway’s speech provided minimal insights, describing the data commentary as factual, delivered with a neutral tone, and carefully worded to keep all options open for the February monetary policy statement (MPS). She noted that the speech did not convey a dovish stance. The next significant economic indicators are expected to be employment and wages data on February 7.