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MNI (London)
Repeats Story Initially Transmitted at 07:40 GMT May 9/03:40 EST May 9
--RBNZ Expected to Leave OCR on Hold at 1.75%
--Orr's Maiden Appearance As Governor At Post SMP Press Conference
By Sophia Rodrigues
     SYDNEY (MNI) - The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is expected to leave the
official cash rate unchanged Thursday, but there is a possibility it could
change its forward guidance to reflect the next move in rates is likely up.
     With an improved outlook for global growth and signs of global inflation
pressures building, along with greater conviction that local inflation would
move towards the mid-point of the target band, the RBNZ may be ready to change
the forward guidance.
     Since November 2016, when the RBNZ cut the OCR to its current 1.75% from
2.0%, its guidance has suggested the possibility of the next move in the rate to
be up or down, even though the OCR forecasts signalled a steady or rising path.
"Numerous uncertainties remain and policy may need to adjust accordingly," the
RBNZ has said.
     The RBNZ's OCR decision and release of Monetary Policy Statement is due at
0900 hours New Zealand time Thursday (2100 hours GMT Wednesday).
     --GUIDANCE TWEAK
     This doesn't mean there are no longer scenarios where the OCR may have to
be cut. Indeed, since February there has been an escalation in risks that would
lead to higher funding costs for New Zealand banks. But the RBNZ will likely
discuss it as an alternative scenario, rather than leaving it in the central
scenario. This is because given the improved backdrop in which lending rates
could rise, it is more likely to delay any future OCR hike rather than lead to a
cut.
     In line with the change in guidance, it is likely the RBNZ will tweak the
OCR profile to signal the first hike may come slightly earlier than the
late-2019/early-2020 suggested in the forward track.
     This will be new Governor Adrian Orr's first OCR decision and because the
decision will be accompanied by the quarterly Monetary Policy Statement (SMP),
it will also be Orr's first press conference.
     As he is stepping on new ground, Orr might resist making any significant
change in the language suggesting a change in monetary policy stance. At the
same time, though, he will be keen to leave his own "first impression."
     The RBNZ has said the SMP will look different from previous editions due to
the increased use of visuals to help explain both the decision and the
assessment of economic conditions. There will also be changes in the order of
some chapters, but it is unclear if the changes have been initiated by Orr or
were already in the pipeline.
     --CPI MAY HIT 2% SOONER
     New Zealand's Q1 CPI was in line with the RBNZ's expectation, but there
were few details in the data that could lead to some upward revision in
forecasts. In particular, the data showed signs of inflation pressure outside
the housing and household utilities growth, and a slowing in the pace of decline
in clothing and footwear/communication growth. 
     Importantly, the RBNZ's sectoral factor model which is its preferred core
inflation measure, accelerated in Q1, rising 1.5% q/q following an upward
revision in Q4 to 1.5% (from 1.4%) and followed three straight quarters at 1.4%.
     The RBNZ may also upgrade its tradable inflation forecast due to the recent
increase in oil prices, and because of improved global economic conditions and
rising  inflationary pressure.
     A slightly lower profile for the exchange rate would also add to the upside
risk on inflation, and help in bringing forward the 2% projection from September
2020, as suggested in February.
     That would be a signal that the OCR might rise earlier than projected back
in February.
--MNI Sydney Bureau; tel: +61 2-9716-5467; email: sophia.rodrigues@marketnews.com
MNI London Bureau | +44 203-865-3812 | les.commons@marketnews.com
MNI London Bureau | +44 203-865-3812 | les.commons@marketnews.com

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