Gross Domestic Product: Dramatic dip not on cards as economist expects 'positive economic growth'

A senior economist isn't expecting dramatic numbers when New Zealand's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures are revealed on Thursday morning.

Statistics NZ will on Thursday report the latest GDP data - a measure of growth in national outputs - from the first quarter of this year.

ASB senior economist Chris Tennent-Brown told AM as bad as New Zealand's cost of living crisis was, the Reserve Bank was trying to tackle inflation early and it wasn't all bad news.

"I constantly remind people that the economy's actually going reasonably well, despite some of the doom and gloom that we read about," Tennent-Brown said.

He pointed to New Zealand's low 3.2 percent unemployment rate in the year to March as well as solid export prices.

But eyes will be on this latest GDP figures release, given it will capture the peak of the COVID-19 Omicron outbreak.

In March, Stats NZ said GDP had grown by 3 percent in the December 2021 quarter - capturing the start of COVID-19 restrictions being loosened in Auckland after months in lockdown due to an outbreak of the Delta variant. 

"We think the economy's going to grow about 3 percent over the year to March," Tennent-Brown said.

Chris Tennent-Brown.
Chris Tennent-Brown. Photo credit: File

"We've got a very low unemployment rate, we've got positive economic growth, we've got strong export prices and GDP captures some of that."

ANZ also picked GDP to continue "unwinding" through the March quarter (Q1).

"However, it's possible that Omicron pushes some of this bounce into Q2," the bank said in its latest economic outlook

"But provided we manage to avoid lockdowns in 2022, the GDP data should settle down over the second half of the year.

"That means we need to continue to look beyond GDP for our steer on economic momentum. And there are plenty of indicators suggesting underlying momentum is slipping."

ANZ is forecasting economic growth to reach close to 2.5 percent in the year to December.

Meanwhile, BNZ is anticipating "flat" GDP figures for the year to March.

"We are expecting to see a lot of ups and downs in its components, with a roughly flat quarterly result overall," BNZ said in its market outlook. "It would be hard to treat this as a bad outcome, however, when COVID finally burst the community's defences (with a vengeance) during the quarter. 

"The other reason to not read too much into a relatively flat result on Q1 GDP is that it would still deliver annual growth of 1.8 percent and leave real GDP 3.5 percent north of its pre-pandemic level," the bank said. 

BNZ is also picking "pressing gains in construction to feature on the positive side" but "the export of services will probably record another clear decline".

"The net result of a lot of noise, our flat expectation on Q1 GDP naturally brings the possibility of a slip into the negative."

Westpac also expects a flat GDP quarter.

Gross Domestic Product: Dramatic dip not on cards as economist expects 'positive economic growth'
Photo credit: Getty Images

"This is a downgrade from our earlier forecast of a 0.6 percent rise, due to some softness in the final batch of sectoral data releases," it said in its weekly economic commentary. 

"COVID continued to act as a handbrake on the economy. While the December quarter was marked by ongoing Government-mandated restrictions, the March quarter included the peak of the Omicron wave, with worker absenteeism being a substantial issue."

It said the June quarter might be more positive.

"We expect a stronger pickup in the June quarter and our forecast for growth in 2022 overall remains broadly unchanged."

May's Budget Economic and Fiscal Update from Treasury projected GDP to rise by 1.7 percent in 2022, before recording a bigger spike of 4.2 percent next year.