Business mood darkens further
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"Gloomy" is how the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research describes the current business mood.
The institute's latest quarterly survey of business opinion (QSBO), released today, points to a drop in hiring intentions and a fall in output from most sectors, with a "sharp" fall in manufacturing.
The survey's index saw the outlook for the three months again move from a net -1% to a net -5%.
That is consistent with a shift in annual GDP from a reasonably robust 2.6% in the year to June to around 1.5% for the calendar year, says the institute's principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub.
Exports "remain positive, but are slowing", he says.
Retail is showing some unexpected strength, with a pick-up driven almost entirely by Auckland shoppers.
There is a strong regional variation in the latest survey: Auckland is growing relatively strongly, but everywhere else is relatively moribund.
The earlier pick-up in Canterbury activity has slowed.
As expected, some capacity pressures are emerging in Canterbury mainly due to a high demand on construction.
Aside from that, though, the Canterbury rebuild has "stalled, whether as a temporary blip or for more sinister reasons we don't yet know".
Retail is down and tourism numbers through Christchurch are "way down".
"There is something going on with the pace of the recovery there and we don't know what it is yet."
The drop off in the manufacturing sector has had a strong impact in the region, he says. "This is also part of the Australian slow-down story."
He does not buy into the idea that manufacturing is in a sudden crisis.
"Manufacturing has been in crisis since 1965, I believe, if you look at the long-term chart. We are not alone in this: the same decline has been going on for decades in places like the US and Europe."
Other sectors which slowed include the large services area.
"This is the largest part of the New Zealand economy and it is not normally volatile so the pull-back here raises a large question about how strong the recovery is."
The reported volume of sale of services fell 12% for the quarter.
"Both financial and non-financial services weakened. I was a bit surprised by that because lending has been picking up."
Overall, Mr Eaqub says, "firms are struggling to raise prices in a slow recovery. Margins and profit remain under pressure".
"Investment intentions, while positive, are low compared to what we normally see in a recovery phase."