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Budget 2016 Home Page Budget Economic and Fiscal Update 2016

Medium-term Outlook from June 2017 to 2020

Growth increases in 2018 before declining later in the forecast…

June year annual average real GDP growth is forecast to lift from 2.9% in 2017 to 3.2% in 2018, and then decline to 2.8% in 2019 and 2.5% in 2020. Key drivers of growth are expected to steadily return to their long-run average levels. Growth in goods exports is forecast to pick up in the 2018 June year owing to a recovery in soft commodity prices as trading partner growth gains traction and dairy supply growth slows. Rising terms of trade are expected to support business investment growth, while previous high population growth boosts residential investment growth. However, the decline in net migration from previously elevated levels and softening real income growth in 2017 are expected to lead to slower private consumption growth, while real public consumption growth moderates as inflation rises and growth in government spending slows. The slowdown in GDP growth over the last two years of the forecast reflects lower net migration inflows, a steady rise in interest rates and the levelling-off in the terms of trade after a period of increases.

Annual growth in the labour force is expected to slow from 1.9% in June 2017 to 1.1% by June 2020. A relatively solid outlook for GDP growth is expected to support employment growth, which encourages people to seek work, and the participation rate is projected to rise from 68.4% in the June quarter 2017 to 68.9% in June 2019.

The economy's potential growth rate is expected to be high over the first half of the forecast period (Figure 1.10), owing to historically high population growth boosted by net migration inflows. Potential growth is expected to fall in annual average terms from 2.9% in June 2017 to 2.4% by the end of the forecast period, as net migration inflows taper off. Potential growth has been revised up across the forecast period from the Half Year Update (Figure 1.10), owing to a higher projection for population growth.

Figure 1.10 - Potential growth
Figure 1.10 - Potential growth.
Source: Statistics New Zealand, the Treasury

…as export prices recover as a result of adjustment in global supply and demand…

The goods terms of trade are expected to recover following a forecast pick-up in late 2016, driven by commodity export prices rising from a low level. An anticipated slowdown in global supply growth is a key driver for some commodities, including dairy, lamb and forestry, alongside broad-based higher demand as world growth regains momentum. Accommodative monetary conditions are expected to support the recovery in advanced economies, while higher commodity export prices lift growth in emerging economies.

Dairy prices are projected to increase steadily towards their assumed long-run average level of around US$3,400/mt by June 2018. On the other hand, rising import prices over the forecast period, as crude oil prices rise from a low level, will be a partial offset to the strengthening export prices. Oil prices are assumed to trend incrementally higher to reach US$63/barrel by June 2020. Owing to a continued rise in import prices, the terms of trade are expected to ease again after 2018 following a recovery.

…leading to a pick-up in commodity exports…

Goods exports are expected to rebound strongly in 2017 (Figure 1.11). Agricultural production is expected to recover in the 2016/17 season, as rising dairy prices stabilise milk production and meat production normalises. The assumed depreciation of the New Zealand dollar over 2016 is also expected to support exports from the middle of 2017. Rising exports growth is expected to be sustained into 2018 before moderating. Services exports are projected to grow steadily over the forecast period, on the back of travel services exports (chiefly tourism), supported by solid income growth in the source countries of tourist arrivals to New Zealand.

Figure 1.11 - Real goods exports
Figure 1.11 - Real goods exports.
Source: Statistics New Zealand, the Treasury

…and monetary policy is expected to remain accommodative…

After remaining at low levels in 2016 and 2017, short-term interest rates are assumed to gradually rise to 4.2% by June 2020 (Figure 1.12), still below their assumed long-run level of 4.5%, as monetary policy is tightened in New Zealand in response to higher inflation. However, short-term interest rates are expected to be lower than in the Half Year Update over the forecast period, owing to the OCR reduction in March and one additional reduction this year. Long-term interest rates are expected to rise from late 2017, to 4.4% by June 2020, as monetary policy is expected to be tightened in New Zealand and the US. However, the long-term interest rate forecast has been revised lower, as the US Federal Reserve slowed its anticipated pace of policy tightening in early 2016 from its previous projections.

Figure 1.12 - 90-day interest rates
Figure 1.12 - 90-day interest rates   .
Source: Reserve Bank, the Treasury

…together supporting investment growth…

Annual average growth in market investment is expected to begin to rise in late 2016, to 6.4% in 2017 and 7.3% in 2018. The pick-up partly reflects increased capital spending by farmers after several seasons of deferred investment and maintenance, and is supported by low interest rates and a recovery in farm incomes. Low interest rates are also expected to support business investment in other industries. The commercial and public sector elements of the Canterbury rebuild will also increase market and non-market investment respectively. However, non-market investment growth is expected to fall after the middle of 2017, reflecting the assumption of lower capital spending than the previous year and the relatively low dollar value of public infrastructure construction projects commencing over the next two years. See the Fiscal Outlook chapter for details on the capital allowance.

…including residential investment

House prices are expected to remain elevated in many parts of the country, particularly Auckland, after strong growth in 2016 and 2017, reflecting limits in the housing supply response to growth in housing demand. High house prices continue to underpin strong residential investment growth in the second half of 2017 and in 2018, but residential investment growth is expected to slow from 2019 (Figure 1.13), as declines in net migration inflows and higher interest rates lead to slower growth in housing demand.

Figure 1.13 - Residential investment
Figure 1.13 - Residential investment   .
Source: Statistics New Zealand, the Treasury

Positive domestic drivers more than offset declining net migration inflows

Net migration is projected to decline from its forecast peak of 70,700 in the middle of 2016, and return to its assumed long-run level of 12,000 per year in 2019, leading population growth to fall from 2.0% in 2016 to 0.9% in 2019. Reflecting slower population growth and rising interest rates, private consumption growth slows to 2.9% in 2017 and 2.5% in 2018, from 3.5% in 2016, and continues to ease for the rest of the forecast period. Real income growth is expected to slow as inflation picks up, and households are assumed to lower their saving rates to buffer reduced incomes and smooth their consumption to an extent.

Real public consumption growth begins to slow slightly in the second half of 2017 as inflation is expected to rise and growth in nominal government spending slows. The fiscal impulse is expected to be mildly contractionary in the last three years of the forecast, and to be broadly neutral over the period as a whole. See the Structural balance indicators box on page 38 for details on how discretionary changes in the fiscal position impact the economy.

Relatively low productivity growth…

Growth in labour productivity over the forecast period is projected to average 1% per year, slightly below its historical average. Below-average labour productivity growth reflects firms using a high proportion of labour in their input mix as growth is expected to be driven by the relatively labour-intensive industries. Below-trend labour productivity growth is expected to contribute to slowing growth in the productive capacity of the economy and to higher inflation. While per capita GDP growth is expected to pick up from 2017, it is forecast to decline again after mid-2019 as growth in labour productivity slows. (The box on page 24 examines in detail the relationship between labour productivity and per capita GDP.)

…contributes to a reduction in spare capacity in the economy...

The degree of spare capacity in the economy is expected to fall over the medium term, as growth in the labour force slows and labour productivity growth remains relatively subdued. The negative output gap, a measure of this spare capacity, narrows through 2017 and 2018, before closing fully in early 2019. This is reflected in a decline in the unemployment rate to 5.1% in June 2018 and 4.6% in June 2019, from a peak of 5.7% in 2016, as growth in the labour force falls below employment growth.

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