* Q1 CPI +0.8% q/q vs +0.7% consensus
* Q1 CPI +1.5% y/y vs +1.4% consensus
* Inflation outlook still uncertain, RBNZ can rest easy – analyst (Updates throughout with more detail, economist comment, NZ$ reax)
By Swati Pandey
SYDNEY, April 21 (Reuters) – New Zealand’s consumer price index (CPI) outpaced expectations in the first quarter, led by transport and housing prices, though economists said the rise was not yet enough for the central bank to consider raising interest rates.
The CPI rose 0.8% in the quarter-ended March from 0.5% in the previous period, just above the 0.7% forecast, according to data released by Statistics New Zealand on Wednesday.
Annual inflation was 1.5%, above expectations for a flat 1.4%, though still below the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s target mid-point of 2%.
“Inflation outlook is still inherently uncertain and there are few signs of the economy overheating,” said Mark Smith, Auckland-based senior economist at ASB, which expects interest rate hikes to begin in August 2022.
“The RBNZ will be keeping tabs on key medium-term inflationary drivers … for signs of economic overheating. In our view this looks some way off and the RBNZ can rest easy for now.”
The RBNZ left its policy settings unchanged, saying current monetary stimulus should ensure its inflation and employment targets are met.
The New Zealand dollar was a shade weaker at $0.7162 after hitting a one-month high of $0.7227 on Tuesday.
Record low interest rates at 0.25%, together with other monetary and fiscal support, have fired up New Zealand’s housing market to historic highs.
Wednesday’s data showed home rents rose 1% last quarter, the biggest quarterly increase in a year, while the cost of building a new house also climbed.
Domestic or non-tradable inflation increased 2.1% in the year to March, after surging 2.8% in the year to December, largely driven by higher home prices and rentals, StatsNZ said.
Transport prices rose 3.9%, the biggest quarterly rise in over a decade, while the price of buying a car also climbed over the quarter. (Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Chris Reese and Jane Wardell)