19 Apr 2012

Dollar remains strong despite weaker inflation

6:36 pm on 19 April 2012

Weaker-than-expected inflation has failed to dent the high-flying New Zealand dollar on Thursday.

Inflation for the March quarter was up, but that increase was lower than forecast by economists and the Reserve Bank.

Statistics New Zealand says the consumer price index rose by 1.6% for the year to the end of March.

Inflation in the first three months of 2012 was 0.5%, slightly less than the 0.6% forecast by bank economists.

The biggest contributor to the rise was an increase in tax on tobacco, which pushed up tobacco and alcohol prices by 4.7% for the quarter, and rising rents in earthquake-hit Christchurch.

But the New Zealand dollar shrugged off the weaker-than-expected numbers, gaining a fifth of a cent against the American dollar.

Late on Thursday afternoon, it was buying US82.7 cents.

Currency traders say investors see the Kiwi as a one-way bet because the rebuild in earthquake-hit Christchurch must stimulate the economy and the Official Cash Rate will at some point have to move off its current record low to combat resulting higher prices.

Meanwhile, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Darren Gibbs believes inflation is not yet at its lowest point and expects the fall in inflation to continue.

He says he expects annualised inflation to drop to around 1.1% in the next quarter before moving back towards the 2% level.