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Financial system stronger despite global stresses

New Zealand's financial system has strengthened, despite a challenging international environment, Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler said today, when releasing the Bank's November 2012 Financial Stability Report.

"Global economic activity is weak and this is affecting emerging markets, including China. The euro area is fragile given the structural issues facing the region and global growth could be further undermined by the possibility of substantially tighter fiscal policy in the United States," Mr Wheeler said.

Nonetheless, financial market sentiment has improved over recent months reflecting further monetary easing in the major economies and various measures to support the financially distressed euro area members. This has helped New Zealand banks access global funding markets, but has also contributed to the strength of the New Zealand dollar.

"Households and firms have generally continued to reduce their reliance on debt. However, household debt remains at relatively high levels, with many borrowers still vulnerable, especially to any correction in house prices. Leverage in parts of the agricultural sector also remains high, leaving the sector exposed to a fall in export prices," Mr Wheeler said.

Deputy Governor Grant Spencer said New Zealand's banks have continued to build their liquidity and capital buffers, giving them greater ability to cope with any renewed stress in funding markets or an increase in loan losses.

"Banks are well placed to meet the increase in the minimum core funding ratio from 70 to 75 percent on 1 January next year," Mr Spencer said.

"We are continuing to strengthen the financial system, drawing on lessons from the global financial crisis. We are implementing the main elements of the Basel III capital adequacy regime as well as continuing to develop our macro-prudential framework. Further, we are putting in place a new prudential and licensing regime for the insurance sector, working with banks to pre-position their systems for Open Bank Resolution and reviewing our statutory powers for overseeing the payment and settlements system."

Media contact
Naomi Mitchell
External Communications Adviser
04 471 3960, 027 485 9474, [email protected]