New Zealand inflation data gap leaves RBNZ alone among its peers

New Zealand is set to become the only OECD nation not to publish a monthly inflation report and has no plans to do so, even though the central bank wants more timely data as it battles the fastest price rises in a generation.

Statistics Australia announced last month that it will start publishing a monthly consumer price index from October, but Statistics New Zealand has no current plans to do the same, a spokesman said. That leaves New Zealand as the last remaining member of the 38-nation OECD still relying on quarterly data, meaning a three-month gap between its inflation reports.

“Inflation is much more important right now than it has been for a long time,” said Sharon Zollner, chief New Zealand economist at ANZ Bank in Auckland. “If ever there was a time for a monthly CPI, it would be now.”

More timely data would help the Reserve Bank assess price pressures when it decides what to do with interest rates every six weeks. The bank’s next monetary policy review is October 5, but third-quarter inflation data won’t be released until October 18.

In 2013, Statistics New Zealand appointed an independent advisory committee to consider ways to improve the CPI. One of his recommendations was to submit a monthly report, which he said should be given “a high priority”, but nothing came of it.

In its presentation to the committee, the RBNZ said a monthly CPI “would allow us to feed more timely information into the monetary policy process” and “enhance research in areas where international comparability is important, such as the real exchange rate.”

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“Our position has not changed,” said an RBNZ spokesman. The bank will have more to say about the desirability of a monthly CPI in a consultation paper later this year for the review of its monetary policy mandate, he said.

The Statistics New Zealand spokesman said funding is part of the reason it doesn’t produce a monthly report.

“Doing a monthly CPI would require a lot of additional resources that we don’t currently have,” he said.

Statistics Minister David Clark also said resource constraints mean monthly data is currently not possible.

“While there are no plans to do a monthly CPI at this time, I am open to further discussion on the subject,” he said.


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