OCR hike likely despite lockdown: ANZ

The Reserve Bank is likely to stick to its guns and hike the official cash rate by 25 basis points next month despite Auckland's ongoing lockdown, according to ANZ economists.

According to the bank's team of economists, capacity constraints and inflationary pressures are likely to tip the balance as the RBNZ makes its latest decision next month.

After delaying an expected rate hike in August, ANZ's team believe only a worst-case scenario in Auckland would influence decision-making next time around.

ANZ's Sharon Zollner said there would need to be a "high burden of proof for them not to hike": "They would basically need to be convinced that this is a net negative demand shock."

The team of economists added: "If the RBNZ were to delay hiking the OCR, it would likely be because the latest lockdown had filtered through into significantly and persistently weaker economic confidence and spending, and higher unemployment.

"These outcomes seem unlikely right now given timely data on sentiment and spending, and encouraging progress on eliminating Covid once more. And even if they did happen, persistent impacts take time to identify, by definition. Therefore, barring some sudden unforecastable lurch, our firm expectation is that the RBNZ will hike the OCR in October."

The bank weighed up the likelihood of the Auckland crisis being severe enough to make the central bank change track.

It said a sustained deterioration in consumer confidence, feeding into lower consumer spending and business spending could hit demand enough to make the RBNZ change its mind.

However, ANZ said early signs "are that business sentiment has held up remarkably well, especially when compared with the 2020 level four lockdown".

The rate hike next month is fully priced in by financial markets. Banks have begun to lift their rates in anticipation of the next OCR decision, with Kiwibank the latest to raise rates this morning. 

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