Here’s another edition of my Economic Data Roundup! In my past entries, we reviewed the fundamental data from the United Kingdom and the United States. This time, let’s focus on the latest set of reports from New Zealand.
What’s noteworthy about this set of data points is that, compared to other major economies which typically print monthly reports, New Zealand releases most of these figures on a quarterly basis. Here’s how their economy performed for the first quarter of 2014:
New Zealand’s employment change report chalked up three consecutive quarters of stronger than expected hiring gains. The Q1 2014 report showed a 0.9% increase in jobs, higher than the estimated 0.6% rise, but the previous quarter’s figure was downgraded from 1.1% to 1.0%.
As for the jobless rate, it managed to hold steady at 6.0% even as analysts were expecting to see an improvement to 5.8%. A closer look at the components of the labor report shows that the participation rate actually improved by 0.4 percentage points to a record high of 69.3%, a healthy sign that individuals are joining the labor force to look for full-time work.
It appears that the recent rise in hiring translated to modest gains in consumer spending, as the quarterly retail sales figures came in line with expectations. Headline retail sales grew by 0.7% while core retail sales showed a 0.8% gain, slightly slower compared to the previous 1.4% and 1.0% increases respectively.
Details of the retail sales report revealed that 10 out of the 15 industries included in the survey reported strong gains in volumes, with sales in electronics recording the largest volume increase of 5.5%. Supermarket sales showed a decline, along with furniture and recreational goods.
Since New Zealand is an export-driven economy, it’s important to review their latest trade numbers as well. The April trade balance came in weaker than expected at a surplus of 534 million NZD versus the estimated 636 million NZD figure and the previous 936 million NZD surplus.
Despite the bleak reading, components of the trade activity report showed a decent 553 million NZD gain in exports from the previous year. Compared with the previous month’s figures though, international sales of dairy products marked a 6.5% decline.
Do you think these latest economic figures would be enough for the RBNZ to maintain its hawkish stance? Cast your votes in our poll below!