CPI data: Economists predict lowest inflation figure for three years, but still higher than Reserve Bank forecasts

Inflation is expected to track down to its lowest level in three years this week - but not low enough to bring forward interest rate cuts.

The Consumer Price Index is currently running at 4.7 percent but could change after data from the first quarter of this year is released on Wednesday.

Economists at the major retail banks are predicting a quarterly rise of between 0.6 and 0.8 percent, which would see the annual rate drop to about 4 to 4.2 percent, the lowest rate in almost three years.

In its February Monetary Policy Statement, the Reserve Bank forecast inflation would drop to 3.8 percent, after a quarterly rise of just 0.4 percent. The monetary policy committee is likely to be disappointed if bank economists' picks prove true.

Inflation is composed of tradables, which are imported goods, and non-tradables, which are goods and services produced locally, such as restaurant meals or electricity.

In its CPI preview, ASB said cooling global inflation is bringing down the tradable side of inflation. However, domestic inflation is still proving "stickier", with rent, construction, insurance and food prices staying higher.

ANZ said the CPI report will show stronger inflation pressures than the Reserve Bank has anticipated although "clear progress has been made".

"Having said that, it's simply too early to declare victory."

Victory for the Reserve Bank is returning inflation to its mandated 1-3 percent target. The bank left the OCR at 5.5 percent last week and said it's "confident that maintaining the OCR at a restrictive level for a sustained period" will return inflation to target this year.

Kiwibank said it expects that to happen in the September quarter which "leaves November as the earliest kick-off date for rate cuts".