New Zealand: rising interest rates
Figures from the Real Estate Institute show that average house prices rose 31% over the year to July, to a record $937,000. Back in March, PM Jacinda Arden brought in new measures to cool the market, saying that ‘the last thing our economy and homeowners need is a dangerous housing bubble.’
The income cap on government-backed First Home Grants was lifted from $85,000 to $95,000 for single buyers, and from $130,000 to $150,000 for couples. The holding time for investment properties to qualify for tax offsets was raised from five to 10 years, and investors were banned from offsetting interest expenses against rental income. Finance Minister Grant Robertson said that ‘we cannot afford to put the current economic recovery at risk by allowing house prices to spiral out of control,’ and announced $3.8 billion to speed up new build construction.
And like its brother across the Tasman sea the Reserve Bank of New Zealand has also bought $53.5 billion of government bonds. However, unlike Australia, it ended the program on 23 July.
But house prices continued to skyrocket. As inflation hit 4.9% in November, New Zealand’s Reserve Bank raised the base interest rate to 0.75%, its second hike in as many months. It expects rates to rise to 2% by the end of 2023, with further increases possible in 2024. Eventually, it hopes the rising cost of monthly mortgage repayments will bring house prices back down.
New Zealand has raised its base rate and stopped buying government bonds. Australia is continuing with its quantitative easing program and keeping its rate at rock-bottom. New Zealand might see its economic recovery falter, while Australia risks fuelling inflation and a housing market collapse.
Meanwhile, the Evergrande threat from China still looms large. With £223 billion of debt, the potential collapse of the mammoth real estate developer could hit both Australia and New Zealand with destructive third-order contagion. 30% of China’s GDP is related to the housing market but average prices in the country fell 0.2% in October.
The long-term impact on AUD/NZD depends on which domino falls first.
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