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World Worries Still There
Thursday June 7th 2012
One week I shall be writing here that things are looking better around the world and growth prospects are improving for our economy. But this is not that week and I don’t anticipate sounding overly optimistic for a number of months. This week we have seen a general movement in the world’s economic discussion toward gauging the extent of the negative impact which Europe’s worsening economic crisis is having on global growth. The news is bad. In India the economic growth rate has slipped to a far lower than expected 5.3%. In China the manufacturing index for May came in also much weaker than expected removing all hope that growth might slow only marginally this quarter. In Australia the Federal Treasury has admitted that it has been working on a contingency plan for handling a new crisis since before Christmas and the RBA has again had to cut interest rates. In the US jobs growth has all but stalled and the unemployment rate is rising again. (more…)
Fresh data have been thin on the ground this week and the only really new developments are in Europe where the fresh news is still bad. Spain’s central bank Governor has thrown in the towel and confidence throughout Europe is falling. In the US housing data have been on the weak side as was Australia’s retail trade number for April.
This plus the Chinese stating reasonably clearly that they are not planning a big stimulus programme all adds up to a worsening global environment which will depress our commodity prices and the NZD – all at the same time as our housing market gathers more and more steam due to a shortage of stock meeting a catch-up period of buying and with interest rates at four decade lows. This does not sound like a sustainable mix. Watch for a blow-out in the current account deficit down the track.
I bet you think this week’s Overview will be all about the Budget. It isn’t. The newspapers give great coverage so there is no point in merely repeating what you will have already read by the time you deign to open this publication. Instead, while noting that the Budget came out and its highlights, this week I reckon the most interesting thing in the WO is the article in the Housing Market section.
Data regarding the state of the NZ economy have been thin on the ground this week. No matter because the big events driving financial markets have been offshore. Weak US jobs data and the European election results and ensuing confusion have caused a wave of risk aversion to sweep across the markets. This has pushed the NZ dollar down along with wholesale interest rates.
The European uncertainty is going to be around for a long, long time. But at least in Australia recent data on retailing and employment growth have been better than expected and this will help support NZ growth at a time when falling commodity prices mean farmer willingness to spend will be possibly declining rather than rising.
Over the past week we have seen some decidedly mixed developments around the planet. On the positive side manufacturing numbers turned out reasonably strong in China and the US. But on the negative side the situation here in Europe continues to get worse, and across the ditch the RBA are so worried they have just cut interest rates 0.5%.
Locally NZ data releases have been decidedly mixed. Export receipts have fallen 6% seasonally adjusted recently, export prices fell 4.5% on average in April, but business sentiment is good with above average employment and investment intentions, credit growth is picking up, residential and non-residential construction consents are showing life (especially the former), but jobs growth is only mild as seen in this morning’s Household Labour Force Survey numbers.
Over the past fortnight we have seen the release of data showing growth in electronic card spending during the March quarter at less than one-third the average pace, falls in dairy prices which now sit one-third below peaks of early last year, but strong growth in dwelling sales and on-line job advertising, plus continuing good levels of business and consumer sentiment regarding the economy. (more…)
Because of Easter the Weekly Overview is being sent a couple of days early and there will be no issue next week as I shall be on leave. This week we are running our monthly survey so if you can please click on the link below and let us know whether you feel the economy will be in better or worse shape in a years time. And if you have a spare minute let us know how conditions are in your industry remembering to specify what it is. Many thanks to past respondents. The results will be sent out after Easter.
Data released this week show an economy still not picking up. Exports have fallen 0.6% in the three months to February, jobs growth has slowed to 0.3% from 0.5% three months earlier, and capital goods imports have declined 7%. These are not the numbers one would expect to see if businesses had been acting on their generally good levels of sentiment, investment, and employment intentions in recent months.
Short term NZ growth prospects remain poor, monetary policy is likely on hold until early next year, but the NZD remains well supported by reasonable commodity prices, and once monetary policy tightening starts history tells us which way the NZD will go.
This morning we learnt that during the December quarter the NZ economy grew by only 0.3% and not the 0.6% which the markets had been expecting. Growth for the whole year was only 1.4%. This mediocre result is in line with the downbeat interpretation I have been taking of NZ’s economic performance – especially when one considers that growth was boosted last year by the Rugby World Cup and the terms of trade being near a four decade high.
This week we have learnt that consumers cut their spending in February but employers strongly raised their on-line job advertising. The NZ dollar lost another cent against a resurgent greenback, but wholesale interest rates have risen to their highest levels since November as growth expectations have risen offshore and pushed up US bond yields in particular. We’ve also received data showing dwelling sales 27% ahead of a year ago and further strength in farm sales. But consumer confidence has weakened and during the December quarter manufacturing output fell 0.7% if one strips out milk and meat processing.