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Monetary Policy Statement December 2009

The Official Cash Rate (OCR) remains unchanged at 2.5 percent.

Policy assessment

The Official Cash Rate (OCR) remains unchanged at 2.5 percent.

The New Zealand economy continues to recover but there remains considerable uncertainty about the durability of the expansion.

Global activity has continued to rebound. Most obviously, activity in Australia, China and emerging Asia continues to increase and solid growth is expected over the next few years.

The picture is more mixed in the major developed economies. While activity is expanding, sustained growth is not assured. Financial sectors are still impaired in a number of economies and economic activity is still heavily dependent on policy support.

In New Zealand, the economy continues to recover, reflecting improved world growth, higher export commodity prices, increased government spending and housing strength. A key uncertainty is the extent to which higher house prices are eventually reflected in increased consumer spending. At this point credit growth remains subdued suggesting households are being relatively cautious.

While business confidence has improved, actual business spending remains weak. In addition, the high level of the New Zealand dollar has limited the scope for exports to contribute to the recovery. After some short-term correction the current account deficit is expected to widen in the future.

Annual CPI inflation is expected to remain below two percent until early 2011 and track within the target range over the medium term.

The economy is being assisted by both monetary and fiscal policy support. As growth becomes self sustaining, fiscal consolidation would help reduce the work that monetary policy might otherwise need to do.

If the economy continues to recover, conditions may support beginning to remove monetary stimulus around the middle of 2010. Recent tightening in financial conditions, driven by a higher exchange rate, increased long-term interest rates and a wider gap between the OCR and bank funding costs, reduces the need for more immediate action.

Alan Bollard

Monetary Policy Statement media conference video - 10 Dec 2009