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Financial Market Update: Reserve Bank Hikes Cash Rate, Sparking Recession Fears

Dwayne Jones, an experienced treasury specialist at Bancorp provides a quarterly finance market update, dissecting the current state of the New Zealand market.

New Zealand's economy is headed for trouble as the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) unexpectedly raised the cash rate by 50bps, lifting the OCR from 4.75% to 5.25%. This meeting will likely be one for the history books as the day the RBNZ Governor drove the economy headfirst into a recession.

In conjunction with the RBNZ hike, the threat of a New Zealand recession has increased considerably, with Q4 GDP plummeting to -0.6% against the RBNZ's projection of +0.7% growth, while the current account deficit exploded to a record NZD33.8bn, or 8.9% of GDP. These factors have led the ratings agency, S&P Global, to warn that NZ's AAA rating could come under pressure given the "extremely high level" of the deficit. To add to economic concerns, the dairy sector, which is a significant contributor to the country's exports, continues to struggle, with prices falling in 7 out of the last 8 dairy auctions.

The RBNZ's 50bps rate hike saw the NZ interest rate curve squeeze higher as the RBNZ attempted to ensure the local banks don't pre-empt the rate cutting cycle by front-running the recession. Bank funding margins had increased throughout the second half of 2022, and while we were starting to see tentative signs that lending margins were starting to compress, last month's bank-related risk-off environment and the recent rate hike have stalled this contraction.

The outsized rate hike also saw the NZD rally strongly, breaking out of its recent range and targeting the 0.6400 level. Companies should actively manage their funding arrangements and cross-border flows to protect against adverse movements and unnecessary risk. This includes reviewing treasury policies to ensure they are fit for purpose, covering actual exposures, maintaining policy compliance, and reviewing transactional banking arrangements. Cash-flow is imperative in protecting all businesses, so ensuring maximized utilization of cash and working capital management is crucial.

Market Update Insight: Here are a few key takeaways for New Zealand businesses in light of the recent events

  1. Be prepared for potential economic recession: The recent rate hike by the RBNZ, coupled with the decline in GDP and the current account deficit, has increased the threat of a recession in New Zealand. Businesses should be prepared for potential economic downturns and have contingency plans in place to mitigate their impact.

  2. Actively manage funding arrangements: The outsized rate hike saw the NZD rally strongly, and companies should actively manage their funding arrangements and cross-border flows in order to protect against adverse movements and unnecessary risk. Reviewing treasury policies, transactional banking arrangements, and ensuring policy compliance are all critical steps in managing funding arrangements.

  3. Make sure your treasury policy covers your actual exposures. It’s not just FX and interest rates, but working capital, term-debt, commodities, cash, funding and liquidity.

  4. Diversify export channels: The export sector, particularly the dairy sector, has been struggling in recent times. Businesses should consider diversifying their export channels to reduce their reliance on a single market or product, which can help them weather the impact of market fluctuations.

  5. Focus on working capital management: Cash-flow is imperative in protecting all businesses, especially during times of economic uncertainty. Companies should focus on working capital management within their receivable and payable processes to maximize the utilization of cash and reduce their exposure to liquidity risk.

In summary, New Zealand's economy faces challenges from both domestic and international factors. While the RBNZ's rate hike may have been an attempt to avoid pre-emptive rate cuts, it may ultimately contribute to an impending recession. Companies should proactively manage their funding arrangements and cross-border flows to protect against adverse movements and unnecessary risk.


This article was provided by Dwayne Jones, an experienced treasury specialist at Bancorp. Further quarterly reports will be provided by Dwayne and his team to keep you all up to date with the state of the market. For more information contact Dwayne via email at

Bancorp accepts no liability for any actions taken or not taken on the basis of this information and it is not intended to provide the sole basis of any financial and/or business evaluation. Recipients of the information are required to rely on their own knowledge, investigations and judgements in any assessment of this information. Neither the whole nor any part of this information, nor any reference thereto, may be included in, with or attached to any document, circular, resolution, letter or statement without the prior written consent of Bancorp as to the form and content in which it appears.


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