Talk Money: November 17

Talk Money Tony Field (Paul Henry)
Talk Money Tony Field (Paul Henry)

Lots of people will be doing their Christmas shopping online this year, with plenty of presents bought from offshore websites.

Those overseas sites often offer a wider range and cheaper goods than people can find locally.

Nor is there any GST to pay if the goods are valued at less than 400 New Zealand dollars. The government is considering imposing GST on physical goods worth less than $400, as it will do from next October with digital goods. But for now, no firm decision has been made.

However, even now, if you are splurging on overseas goods you may find you do end up getting stung for tax by Customs. Even if you thought you were safely under the $400 limit.

People sometimes forget that the tax applies if the combined value of the goods is more than $400. The GST is not assessed item by item.

Customs also adds the value of the postage to the goods.

That can mean people go over the $400 limit more easily than they expected, especially with a weaker New Zealand dollar.

The Kiwi is trading at around 84.90 US cents this morning. That is well down from its peak of 88 cents reached last year.

It is also worth remembering that if Customs has doubts about the value of the goods that you have been sent it might ask you for an itemised invoice from the seller of the goods.

The New Zealand dollar fell over 1 percent this morning, as the US currency gained ground.

The US dollar is seen as a safe haven investment that rises in value when investors are anxious.

However the Paris attacks are not the only reason for the rise in the US dollar.

Investors are increasingly thinking that next month the US Federal Reserve will hike interest rates for the first time in almost a decade. The Fed's key interest rate has been virtually zero since the global financial crisis.

If the Fed were to lift rates it would make the US currency more appealing because investors would get a better return on their cash deposits.

While rates might rise next month in the US, they look like falling further in New Zealand.

The economists at ASB believe the case is growing for another interest rate cut, because of weaker dairy prices and the slowing economy.

They are picking annual growth of 2.1 percent early next year, compared to growth of over 3 percent early this year.

Although dairy prices are rebounding now, farm incomes will remain under pressure. They are picking a 6 percent fall in production and a pull-back in investment and spending. A possible drought caused by El Nino weather conditions is another risk as well to the agricultural sector.

Inflation is weak right now, with only modest wage and price increases. That means that the inflation rate is well below the Reserve Bank's target of 2 percent.

Unemployment is likely to rise further from its current 6 percent.

So the economists at ASB believe the RBNZ will lower the official cash rate by 0.25 percent next month to 2.5 percent to try to give the economy a lift.

They also think there might be further rate cuts next year.

It's not all gloom when it comes to the economy.

ASB's research note does list several positive factors about the New Zealand economy.

Non-dairy exports are performing well, particularly tourism. The lower the dollar goes the better it is for exporters or local tourism operators.

Although China is slowing, much of New Zealand's exposure is to the growing Chinese middle class.

New Zealand's construction sector remains "resilient". Although ASB predicts that construction will slow, overall building activity will remain "very high".

Retail trade has remained strong, partly due to overseas visitors. Numbers out yesterday from Statistics New Zealand showed that retail sales volumes rose in the September quarter, thanks to cars and electronic goods.

Lower interest rates will drive spending and should offset some of the fall in consumer confidence.

So yes, the economy is slowing. But it is not all bad news.

ASB predicts that economic growth will rebound to around 2.7 percent by early 2017.

The New Zealand dollar was trading at 64.92 US cents at 8am.

It was down by half a percent overnight against the Australian dollar, sitting at 91.53 cents.

The Kiwi down 0.8 percent against the Pound, at 42.69 pence.

It was trading at 60.72 Euro cents, and 79.98 Yen.

There was no sign of panic on the world's share markets in the wake of the tragic events in Paris.

The New Zealand share market fell half a percent yesterday and Australia's top 200 stocks fell 0.9 percent.

Hong Kong's market lost 2 percent in value, while Japan's market shed half a percent. The Japanese market regained some of its early losses, despite the economy officially slipping into recession.

European markets were mixed with Germany rising 0.05 percent, France slipping 0.08 percent and the UK market gaining 0.46 percent.

Tourism, airline and hotel stocks were sold off. Air New Zealand slipped 2.8 percent, Air France fell 5.7 percent, hotel group Accor lost 4.7 percent and Thomas Cook was down 4.8 percent.

Oil rose, with West Texas crude rising 2.75 percent to US$41.86 and European Brent adding 0.79 percent to trade at US$44.77.

Paul Henry

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