Experts react to New Zealand's 'stupendously strong' GDP figures

Experts have described the 2.0 percent increase in New Zealand's gross domestic product (GDP) in the September quarter as "stupendously strong". 

The increase is significantly higher than the 0.9 percent that was expected for the quarter. 

It was driven primarily by the services industries, up 2 percent. The transport, postal and warehousing industry was the biggest contributor to growth, up 9.7 percent.

ASB senior economist Nat Keall said the increase was "far in excess" of market and Reserve Bank of New Zealand predictions. 

"All-up, the economy looks to have been in a much stronger position as of the end of Q3 than almost anyone expected," Keall said. 

But he warned the stronger-than-expected results could mean a bigger Official Cash Rate (OCR) hike early next year. 

"A fair chunk of this quarter’s whopper growth is an artefact of one-off drivers: the big surge in service activity and exports driven by the opening of the NZ border," Keall said. 

"And we still expect growth to slow over 2023 given the pervasive headwinds facing the economy – higher interest rates, slowing global growth, ongoing capacity challenges, and the cooling housing market to name but a few.

"Still, the strength that the NZ economy has shown thus far suggests activity is proving exceedingly resilient."

Keall said as a result February's OCR is likely to be between 75 and 100 basis points rather than the expected 50 to 75 - which means more pain for people with mortgages. 

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the GDP figures are "another solid result" and show the strength of New Zealand's economy.

"The latest economic indicators suggest the momentum has continued into the December quarter. There are signs however that activity will slow from there.

"Government actions to grow the economy means we are in a stronger position than before the pandemic.

"New Zealand is as well placed as any other country to face the shifting global conditions, with low unemployment, growing exports, a rebound in tourist numbers and a healthy set of Government books. Our economic plan is working for Kiwis," Robertson said.

He said the Government will continue to "focus on supporting New Zealanders with cost of living pressures while carefully and responsibly managing" its finances. 

The figures come after Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr last month admitted to trying to deliberately engineer a recession to slow spending.  

Orr also apologised to New Zealanders as the country braces for dark economic times and the cost of living skyrockets.

It comes as the RBNZ aggressively hikes interest rates to dampen rampant inflation. 

New Zealand's consumer price index (CPI) increased 7.2 percent annually in the September 2022 quarter, down slightly from its peak of 7.3 in the June quarter. 

In an effort to control inflation, the RBZ has hiked the OCR by more than 400 basis points since March 2020. The OCR is currently 4.25 percent but is expected to continue rising next year.