A small country on the other side of the world could be warning the U.S. about what can happen if it raises rates too soon.
New Zealand, home to 4.5 million people and 29.6 million sheep, cut its rates on Thursday. But what makes the move interesting is that while most of the world's central banks have been on a monetary easing spree, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand had begun a cycle of raising its Official Cash Rate early last year.
When rates were first raised last year, central bank Gov. Graeme Wheeler said it was to keep inflation in check. "However, the fall in export commodity prices that began in mid-2014 is proving more pronounced," said Wheeler in a statement on Thursday that accompanied the policy reversal.
"It's an unusual case where I think they made a mistake," said Win Thin, global head of emerging markets strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman. "They tightened too much, and now they're taking some of that back."
Meanwhile, some very prominent global policymakers are worried that a U.S. rate increase, expected in the fall, could be poorly timed, as well.
"Muted inflation pressures suggest that interest rate hike can wait a little, that such interest rate hike would be better off in 2016," said IMF chief Christine Lagarde last week. "The inflation rate is not progressing at a rate that would warrant without risk … a rate hike in the next few months, which is why we are saying the economy would be better off with a rate hike in early 2016."
But Thin sees a tightening move by the Fed as being different because of the nature of the U.S. economy. "Exports account for maybe 10-15 percent of GDP for the U.S.," he said. "That's much less than we see in Germany, Japan, China and all these other export-dependent countries. So despite the slowdown in the rest of the world, the U.S. seems to be chugging along quite nicely."
"We are getting to the point where we need to normalize policy," Thin added. "Remember, zero rates was from 2008 in the depths of the crisis."
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