Domestic growth has slowed over the past year. While construction activity strengthened in the March 2019 quarter, growth in the services sector continued to slow. Softer house prices and subdued business sentiment continue to dampen domestic spending.
Given the downside risks around the employment and inflation outlook, a lower OCR may be needed.
Meanwhile, excerpts from the Summary Record of Meeting:
The Committee noted that inflation remains slightly below the mid-point of the inflation target and employment is broadly at its maximum sustainable level. The Committee agreed that a lower OCR may be needed to meet its objectives, given further deterioration in the outlook for trading-partner growth and subdued domestic growth.
The Committee discussed the ongoing weakening in global trade activity. A drawn out period of tension could continue to suppress global business confidence and reduce growth. Resolution of these tensions could see uncertainty ease.
The Committee discussed the trade, financial, and confidence channels through which slowing global growth and trade tensions affect New Zealand. The members noted in particular the dampening effect of uncertainty on business investment. Some members noted that lower commodity prices and upward pressure on the New Zealand dollar could see imported inflation remain soft.
While global economic conditions had deteriorated, the Committee noted that domestic GDP growth had held up more than projected in the March 2019 quarter. The members discussed disparities in growth across sectors of the economy, with construction strong and services weak. The members also discussed whether some of the factors supporting growth in the quarter would continue.
The Committee noted that recent softer house prices, if sustained, are likely to dampen household spending. The Committee also noted the recent falls in mortgage rates and the Government’s decision not to introduce a capital gains tax.
The Committee noted that Budget 2019 incorporated a stronger outlook for government spending than assumed in the May Statement. The members discussed the impact on growth of any increase in government spending being delayed, for example due to timing of the implementation of new initiatives and current capacity constraints in the construction sector.
The Committee discussed whether additional monetary stimulus was necessary given continued falls in global growth and subdued domestic demand. The members agreed that more support from monetary policy was likely to be necessary.
The Committee discussed the merits of lowering the OCR at this meeting. However, the Committee reached a consensus to hold the OCR at 1.5 percent. They noted a lower OCR may be needed over time.