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OCR cut will reignite NZ's housing market, says Westpac

Liam Dann,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 8 May 2019, 3:48PM
The Reserve Bank has cut the Official Cash Rate to a record low 1.5 per cent and signaled further cuts will follow. (Photo / Herald)
The Reserve Bank has cut the Official Cash Rate to a record low 1.5 per cent and signaled further cuts will follow. (Photo / Herald)

Today's Reserve Bank interest rate cut - taking the OCR to record low of 1.5 per cent - will reignite New Zealand's housing market, Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens says,

"Mortgage rates have plunged over the past two months, and today's OCR cut will cause them to fall further," Stephens said.

"We think the consequence will be an upturn in the housing market, starting in the second half of 2019."

Auckland house prices have been slowing tracking down for the past two years after a boom from 2010 through 2017.

The rate of growth has started to slow throughout the rest of the country.

Property research firm CoreLogic described the news as "pretty much one-way traffic" for the property market.

"Competition amongst the banks is already strong, 'rate wars' are frequent, and a lower-for-longer official cash rate also bodes well for mortgage rates over the next 1-2 years at least," said Kelvin Davidson, Senior Property Economist.

"In this environment, borrowers are sitting pretty. Property sales volumes and prices should hold up relatively well (albeit not booming), especially since the prospect of capital gains tax has now been taken off the table."

However he warned people needed to be mindful of "the probable requirement that banks hold more capital on their balance sheets in future."

"It seems likely that the proposal will be introduced in some shape or form, and could push up mortgage rates by as much as 1 percentage point," he said.

"For now, however, today's OCR cut means it's still business as usual for the residential property market."

OneRoof.co.nz editor Owen Vaughan says: "Rewind to last year, and the mood was that rates would go up. The cut is good news for first home-buyers and those who are in a position to renegotiate their mortgage.

"And with CGT now off the table, the Reserve's move may spark more activity in the investor market, which had been subdued."

The Reserve Bank would not be keen to see house prices soaring again - but has weighted the balance of risk towards the other end of the economy.

Previously it has used its regulator powers to introduce restrictions on bank lending (LVRs) to cool the market.

As part of its financial stability brief the RBNZ monitors New Zealand's private debt levels closely and has regularly cited them as cause for concern.

The rate of growth in mortgage debt has slowed in the past two years but remains at relatively high levels by global standards.

In its decision today the Reserve Bank cited concerns about slowing global growth and the domestic economy.

It noted that inflation was still subdued and that despite low unemployment there was some slack in the job market.

"The Monetary Policy Committee decided a lower OCR is necessary to support the outlook for employment and inflation consistent with its policy remit," the newly minted committee - which includes three external members - said in the statement.

It said the lower OCR provided a more balanced outlook for interest rates, without indicating whether further cuts were needed.

ON AIR: Kerre McIvor Mornings

9AM - 12PM