Economic Weekly: Hello 2021, please be kind!

Over the holiday period, no doubt many of us gave some sort of appropriate salute to 2020 and looked ahead to the prospect of a better 2021.  The start of the year is always a time for reflection, and there are a number of things worth thinking about as we look ahead to a year in which the economy should be in better shape than last year’s rollercoaster ride.

The most astonishing thing about 2020 was that – for all the upheaval globally – NZ’s economy rebounded sufficiently strongly in the September quarter (+14%!) that GDP is now higher than it was at the end of 2019.  That is a milestone we hadn’t expected for some time.  The bounce also puts us firmly ahead of many of our key trading partners.  We expected sharp rebounds in areas of the economy that were most affected by the March-June lockdown restrictions, but even so, the extent of the bounce in sectors such as construction and retail was more than anticipated.  You can read our review here.  Adaptability, huge financial support, and keeping COVID-free have all helped.

For 2021, we expect muted growth, somewhere around 1-2% in annual terms.  In part, that outlook reflects how quickly some sectors have already got back on their feet, and how swiftly households have responded to super low interest rates. But NZ’s largely closed border and the ongoing global economic impacts of the pandemic will continue to constrain NZ’s full economic potential for a little while longer.  Even as the first vaccines are being swiftly rolled out, the UK and a number of European countries have tightened up their COVID restrictions, which will drag on overall global growth.

Vaccination will still take a while to roll out in NZ and globally, leaving vulnerabilities in place and ongoing restrictions at our border.  The new strains of COVID-19 – particularly the virulent UK one – create added threats to both when our border can be safely opened up and to the idyllic COVID-free way of life we have returned to.  Vulnerabilities remain, and in 2021, vigilance will remain the price of liberty from COVID-19.  Mark Smith’s Watch List for 2021 gives more thoughts.

This week the NZ data flow starts off with an update on the extent of the Christmas spend-up (via Electronic Cards Transactions), net migration flows (still very subdued), and Q4 inflation figures.  We expect inflation to be low for late 2020 and much of 2021, with an annual rate of 1.1% anticipated for Friday’s December 2020 quarter release.

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Jane Turner

Senior Economist

Originally hailing from sunny Nelson, Jane moved to Auckland to join the ASB team in 2008.  As Senior Economist, Jane's main focus is co-ordinating the team’s macro-economic forecasts.  In this key role, Jane was thrilled by the team’s twice consecutive win of the Consensus Economics Forecast Accuracy award.   

During her decade-long career in economic forecasting, Jane has gained a thorough knowledge of the New Zealand economy.  Her current focus is on New Zealand GDP growth, including both manufacturing and the construction sectors.  She has spent time forecasting most sectors of the economy, including inflation, trade, housing, labour and financial markets.

Prior to joining ASB, Jane honed her macro-economic forecasting skills at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.  Jane is a qualified scarfie, attending Otago University and graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce in Economics with 1st class honours.  In 2014, she took a career break from ASB to travel the world and learn to snowboard.

Mark Smith

Senior Economist

Mark joined ASB in 2017, with over 20 years of public and private sector experience working as an economist in New Zealand and the UK.

His resume includes lengthy stints at ANZ and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and he has also worked at the Bank of England, HM Treasury and the New Zealand Transport Agency. Mark's areas of specialisation include interest rate strategy, macro-economic analysis and urban economics.

Born and bred in the Waikato, Mark studied at Waikato University where he graduated with a Master of Social Sciences, majoring in Economics.

Mark's key strengths are the ability to use his extensive experience, inquisitive nature, analytical ability, creativity and pragmatism to dig a little deeper and to deliver common sense solutions to tackle complex problems.

When not at work Mark likes to travel, keep fit and spend time with his friends and family.

Mike Jones

Senior Economist

Mike joined ASB in 2019 armed with almost 15 years of experience in applied macroeconomic and financial markets analysis.

Mike's career has been all about distilling the risks and opportunities of economic and financial market trends for business. Basically asking the "what does it all mean" question. Mike's enthusiasm and skill for drawing out practical, commercial insights from the murky world of economics has been honed over a relatively broad base of experience.

After spending the early part of his career on the tools at the Reserve Banks of both NZ and Australia, Mike had a lengthy stint at BNZ where he was NZ’s top-ranked currency strategist. His regular and topical macro research also saw him pick up several FX forecast accuracy gongs from Bloomberg.

Drawn in by the prospect of putting strategy into practice, Mike moved from Wellington to Auckland in 2013 to join Fonterra as GM Treasury Risk Management. In this role, Mike lead Fonterra’s macroeconomic research output, and was responsible for the strategy and execution of Fonterra’s foreign exchange, debt, and interest rate hedging programmes.