BNZ becomes first major bank to predict recession

Author
Hamish Rutherford, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 9 Mar 2020, 2:45PM
Finance Minister Grant Robertson is set to announce more measures to assist businesses hit by Covid-19 this afternoon. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)
Finance Minister Grant Robertson is set to announce more measures to assist businesses hit by Covid-19 this afternoon. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)

BNZ becomes first major bank to predict recession

Author
Hamish Rutherford, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 9 Mar 2020, 2:45PM

BNZ has become the first major bank to predict a recession, forecasting that the economy will shrink in the first half of the year.

The bank said this morning that a "best-case scenario" was that the economy would grow "a smidgen above zero" but the downside risks were growing by the day.

"We are thus now formally forecasting at least two quarters of negative growth."

BNZ is still expecting the recession to be a very short and shallow one, with growth resuming and continuing in the second half of the year.

"This downturn is fundamentally a supply shock which, in turn, is creating a demand shock. Its root cause is Covid-19 so how the behaviour of individuals, globally, to this shock evolves will ultimately determine the economic path from here on in. Policymakers can only hope to smooth the process," BNZ head of research Stephen Toplis said on Monday.

The prediction came as other banks predicted interest rate cuts this month.

Kiwibank expects the Reserve Bank will cut the official cash rate by 50 basis points on March 25, which BNZ agreed was now likely.

ANZ, which predicted a 50 point cut a week ago hinted there was still a chance that the benchmark rate would be cut before March 25, suggesting the Reserve Bank may have an emergency meeting of the monetary policy committee.

ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner called for a swift response from the Government.

" The risk that unconventional monetary policy will be required is lifting. And it's time for the Government to up the ante on fiscal policy. The good news is that there is plenty of firepower to do this. Scrapping this year's minimum wage rise seems like a no-brainer given pressure on businesses, and there are plenty of other short‑ and long-term policy options that could help."

Meanwhile, the flight to safety among investors continued, sending government bond rates tumbling.

The yield on 10-year New Zealand Government bond plunged to an all-time low of 0.84 per cent on Monday.

"Investors are swarming to the safety of highly rated government bonds and central banks are pledging to use 'all appropriate policy tools' to support economic health," economists at Kiwibank said today.