June 13th, 2024

Annual inflation in New Zealand stabilises at 4% but still overshoots official targets

Rental and construction costs surge, driving continued inflationary pressures despite a slight easing from last quarter.

As New Zealand continues to navigate these inflationary pressures, the focus remains on policy responses from the RBNZ and other governmental measures to stabilise the economy.
As New Zealand continues to navigate these inflationary pressures, the focus remains on policy responses from the RBNZ and other governmental measures to stabilise the economy.

The recent data from Statistics New Zealand indicates a 4.0% rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the year ending March 2024, a figure that remains above the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s (RBNZ) target range of 1 to 3%. The increase represents a slight moderation from the 4.7% inflation rate recorded in December 2023 but continues a trend of elevated prices, particularly in the housing sector.

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This quarter's inflation, the smallest rise since June 2021, still underscores the ongoing economic strain faced by consumers, particularly in the realms of housing and household utilities, which have been the primary drivers of the year-over-year inflation increase.

Persistent Housing Price Increases

Rental prices have seen a significant spike, increasing 4.7% over the past year, which marks the highest annual increase since such data began being tracked in September 1999. Additionally, the construction of new houses and rates have risen by 3.3% and 9.8%, respectively, according to Nicola Growden, Senior Manager of Consumer Prices at Stats NZ.

Growden emphasised the impact of the housing market on the broader inflation landscape.

"Rent prices are increasing at the highest rate since the series was introduced in September 1999," she said.

The persistently high inflation in the housing sector reflects broader market dynamics, including supply constraints and ongoing demand pressures.

Broader Economic Impacts

The inflationary trend extends beyond housing. The sectors of recreation and culture also saw notable increases. Prices for international accommodation surged by 20.8% over the last year, while cultural services, which include expenses such as subscription TV and cinema tickets, rose by 9.7%.

Alcoholic beverages and tobacco followed suit, with notable price hikes driven by a 6.5% increase in cigarette and tobacco prices following the annual excise tax increase on January 1, 2024.

Quarterly Insights

On a quarterly basis, the CPI rose by 0.6% in the March 2024 quarter, influenced by increases in alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and recreation and culture, though partially offset by lower transport prices. International air transport saw a significant decrease of 10.3%, and petrol prices dropped by 2.3%.

These changes reflect a mix of local policy impacts, such as excise tax adjustments, and global economic conditions, including fluctuations in oil prices and changes in global travel patterns.

Looking Ahead

As New Zealand continues to navigate these inflationary pressures, the focus remains on policy responses from the RBNZ and other governmental measures to stabilise the economy and mitigate the cost-of-living increases impacting New Zealanders, particularly in essential sectors like housing.

The ongoing challenge for policymakers will be to address these inflationary pressures without stifling economic growth, a delicate balance in an environment of uncertain global economic conditions.