Why the hype about saving?

New Zealand doesnot have a long term saving problem. With open capital markets, the decisionto save or borrow is purely a financing decision, and one that is driven by theprice of credit. The international price of credit is very low at present. Taking advantage of these low prices is a rational response by New Zealanders.

A soft spot for a tough policy change

Annual average GDP growth is at a seven-yearlow, but economic forecasters appear to have broadly accepted the ReserveBank’s commitment to raising interest rates higher. This combination suggeststo us that the Reserve Bank has explicitly grown less accepting of medium-terminflation pressure, and that it has largely convinced the market that anaggressive stance is necessary.

A turning point for property yields?

The popularity of property investment thisdecade has led to declining yields across the board, with rising prices hittingthe returns available from residential, commercial, industrial, and evenaccommodation buildings. With lease agreements coming up for their 2-3 yearrenewal, the property sector is now in the midst of a period where landlordsare looking to recover some of the ground lost during the price boom of thelast few years. Building owners almost always hold the upper hand in thesenegotiations, but current economic conditions suggest they may not have it alltheir own way this time around.

Blame it on the boomers

The affordability of housing is currently ahot topic. But even with house prices so high, over 102,000 properties changedhands last year – implying that housing is still affordable for some. Simpleeconomics tells us that prices would not keep rising if they weren’t beingdriven by demand.

Bio-fuels arenand#39;t the silver bullet

The government is set to introduce amandatory sales target for bio-fuels with the goal of improving the security ofNew Zealand’s fuel supply. However, the economic benefits from this policy could be outweighed by the additionalcosts imposed upon firms and consumers, as well as stifling longer-term effortsto produce efficient bio-fuel domestically.

A year of two halves

Road freight transport operators were slugged with a nasty one-two combination over the first six months of this year. A slowdown in economic activity weighed heavily on demand for road freight transport services, while soaring diesel prices and surging wage costs put the squeeze on margins. But after a tough start to the year trading conditions appear to be improving.

Business blues

Business confidence indicators have picked up over recentmonths, and are now well ahead of the lows reached at the end of 2005.  Butdespite these gains they remain in negative territory. In fact both the NZIER’sand the National Bank’s business confidence measures have been in the red since2002 – a period which the economy has grown at above average growth rates forthe majority of the time.  So what gives?  Business confidence measures aresupposed to provide insight into future economic prospects, but for some reasonbusinesses have expressed a pessimistic outlook throughout one of the bestperiods of economic growth in New Zealand’s history.  Are these guys neversatisfied?

The land of the setting sun

Japanese visitor arrival numbers to New Zealand have beendeclining steadily over the past 18 months.  But unlike similar downturns overrecent years which were driven by one-off global events (September 11, SARS,and the Iraq war), the falling numbers this time round do not have a single,easily identifiable cause.  Moreover, the fall in the number of Japanese peoplevisiting New Zealand comes at a time when the total number of Japaneseholidaying abroad is beginning to rise.  So why has New Zealand fallen out offavour with the Japanese?  And is this really something the New Zealand tourismindustry need be concerned about – won’t the burgeoning numbers of middle-classChinese more than offset a decline in Japanese holidaymakers?

Some good news

The fall in fuel prices over the past six weeks will be adding some fat to some pretty lean margins in the trucking industry. How much further will prices fall? Not much in our view. Although there are some conspiracy theories floating about that suggest the Saudis will pump enough oil to drop prices leading into the November mid-term elections in the US to help George Bush. An interesting theory, but one we don’t subscribe to.