Economists react to bank funding programme

Economists are divided on whether the Reserve Bank will need to cut the official cash rate further after it launched a new funding programme to push down interest rates. 

Nick Tuffley

The Reserve Bank has kept the official cash rate on hold at 0.25%, but outlined details of its Funding for Lending Programme, which will kick off next month.

The FLP will give banks access to cheaper funding and in turn reduce borrowing costs for individuals and businesses. 

The programme will be set at the rate of the OCR, with the size of the programme set at 4% of each participant's total loans and advances.

A conditional additional allocation of 2% of eligible loans will then be made available, for a total size of 6% of eligible loans, the central bank said.

Analyst estimates suggest the FLP could be worth $30 billion to $50 billion.

The much-anticipated programme, tipped to send mortgage rates below 2%, will go live in December as the Reserve Bank attempts to stimulate the economy following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nick Tuffley, chief economist at ASB, said the FLP would "drive down bank funding costs and feed into economy-wide interest rates".

Tuffley said the programme, and stronger than expected economic recovery, could reduce the need for further OCR cuts. 

"Our assessment of how the economy is tracking suggests the FLP scheme could be enough stimulus to ensure the NZ economic recovery remains sufficiently on track.

"We are shifting to forecast that the OCR will now remain on hold at 0.25%, although the balance of risks will remain skewed towards the need for further support."

Stephen Toplis of BNZ said the FLP makes negative rates "less likely". 

He pointed out the RBNZ had changed its unconstrained interest rate track, indicating fewer cuts were needed.

"The Bank thinks conditions have improved sufficiently to require 90 basis points less stimulus than was previously assumed," he said.

Kiwibank chief economist Jarrod Kerr, welcomed the FLP.

"Since February, we have pounded the table in favour of bank term lending facilities as the next best monetary policy option. Today’s FLP announcement was a well-orchestrated, well-telegraphed, but long-awaited policy move. Late, but in earnest."

Kiwibank still believes the OCR will fall further next year.

"We remain of the view that the RBNZ will follow through with another cut in the cash rate to -0.5% next year, most likely in February."

The Reserve Bank continues to lay the groundwork for a potential negative OCR next year, saying further rate cuts "remain under consideration".

Most Read

Get TMM delivered to your inbox each week

Sign Up