Reserve Bank Governor refuses to answer questions

Michael Reddell at Croaking Cassandra writes about yesterday’s news conference with Graeme Wheeler, Governor of the Reserve Bank:

…the outgoing Governor of the Reserve Bank today both refused to accept that he’d made any mistakes, while refusing any comment at all on some of the more searching questions.

The news conference was on the occasion of the release of his statutory monetary policy accountability document, the Monetary Policy Statement.    It was the last opportunity journalists will get to question him.

And yet faced with questions about the Toplis affair (his use of public resources, including his senior managers, to attempt to close down critical commentary from an employee of an organisation the Bank regulates), he simply refused to comment.

I’m sure he is now feeling quite embattled and defensive, but surely it should be unacceptable for a powerful public official to simply refuse all comment on such a chilling example of abuse of executive office?

I hope members of Parliament use their opportunity this afternoon to ask questions on this matter, and to insist on answers.

And:

The Governor also tried to avoid most questions about his term in office (but was happy to provide a long answer to a curious question about risks around North Korea, on which he has (a) no accountability, and (b) no more knowledge than the rest of us).  Apparently there is a speech coming –  which may be interesting, but it provides no opportunity for follow-up challenge or scrutiny.   Asked if his critics have been fair, and if at times their criticism may have clouded his judgement in decisionmaking, he claimed he will cover that in his speech.  If so, that should be interesting.      Asked also about:

  • what surprised him about the economy in the last five years,
  • about his inflation record in the last five years, and
  • what his successor should worry about

he refused to provide any answers, and simply referred everyone to the forthcoming speech.

Odd that Wheeler had a media conference before giving his speech.

A lot more about the failure to answer questions and about Reserve Bank matters in: Consistent to the end…..sadly

OCR lower, mortgage rates higher

Most local news was overshadowed by the aftermath of the US election yesterday, but the Official Cash Rate was reduced to a record low of 1.75%. This was signalled and expected.

However mortgage rates have not followed suit, in fact some have started to rise.

ODT: OCR cut, but lower mortgage rates unlikely

As expected, the Reserve Bank cut the official cash rate to a record low 1.75% yesterday, with expectations the country’s stubbornly low 0.4% inflation rate will rise to the midpoint of its 1%-3% target.

The quarter point cut is not expected to be passed on in lower mortgage rates by banks, which are having to borrow money offshore at higher rates, partly because of the lack of deposits domestically.

Mr Wheeler said his current projections, including yesterday’s cut, would see economic growth strong enough to have inflation settle near the middle of the 1%-3% target range.

“Numerous uncertainties remain, particularly in respect of the international outlook, and policy may need to adjust accordingly.”

On the question of the OCR being cut, but not passed on to mortgage borrowers, BNZ external relations consultant Mac Dalton said it was timely to remind borrowers that interest rates were not solely linked to the OCR.

One source of funding for banks is local deposits, and at present there were more people wanting home loans than there were people saving, Mr Dalton said.

“So to encourage and attract more deposits, people’s savings and terms deposits, we need to pay a sharper return to savers,” he said.

Also the banks still needed overseas funds to fill the gap, and the cost of those funds remained volatile, he said.

So while it looks like mortgage rates are unlikely to be coming down any further we still benefit from record low rates.

Cash rate stays, foreign buyers go

Yesterday the Governor or the Reserve Bank, Graeme Wheeler, announced there would be no change to the record low cash rate of 2.25% and also warned that property investors could soon be targeted with new Loan to Value ration rules.

Wheeler said that rising house prices as a risk to the country’s financial stability.

Later in the day, possibly in part at least in response, the Westpac and ANZ banks said they would no longer lend to overseas buyers of New Zealand properties due to financial risks.

This follows similar moves recently in Australia. Other banks are expected to do likewise.

This is expected and hoped to have some impact on escalating property prices.

NZ Herald: Westpac, ANZ Bank shut out foreign buyers

Westpac New Zealand has announced that from today it will no longer lend to non-resident borrowers with overseas income.

Borrowers on temporary resident visas will only be accepted if they have both a New Zealand address and a New Zealand-based income.

ANZ has also announced restrictions that will effectively shut out most non-resident, overseas-based borrowers, including restricting lending to owner-occupied properties.

The restrictions will not affect New Zealand passport holders living abroad and purchasing property funded by overseas income.

A Westpac spokeswoman said the restrictions “reduces risk”.

“Verification of foreign applications is essential to meeting our lending criteria and obligations, but is operationally difficult in these cases.”

An ANZ spokesman said the changes were made to ensure the bank was “appropriately positioned in the current housing environment, taking into account supply pressure in certain areas”.

Auckland mortgage broker Bruce Patten, of mortgage brokerage Loan Market, said he expected more banks to follow Westpac and ANZ.

The majority of non-resident, overseas-based buyers would take out New Zealand bank loans for purchases here, unless they paid cash, Mr Patten said.

“Most banks around the world won’t take security in a country other than their own…it is going to cut any overseas purchases out.”

Mr Patten believed the change was partly driven by the Australian-owned banks wanting to follow developments across the Tasman – but there could also have been pressure from Government or the Reserve Bank.

“If this has an impact on slowing the house price rise down, then perhaps they might decide that they don’t need to bring [other] measures in.”

Time will tell how much effect this will have on the property market and house prices.