March 22, 2020 / 10:19 PM / 9 days ago

NZ central bank starts quantitative easing to tackle coronavirus

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) said on Monday it would start buying up to NZ$30 billion ($17 billion) worth of government bonds, following other central banks’ moves to offset the impact of the coronavirus.

The bank said its Large Scale Asset Purchase programme would start this week and carry on over the next 12 months across a range of maturities.

“This package is huge,” ANZ Bank Chief Economist Sharon Zollner said in a note.

“Our analysis last week flagged the need for purchases of $15-20 billion per annum, if not more, and this announcement is even larger,” she added.

Last week RBNZ cut its official cash rate by 75 basis points to a new record low of 0.25% in an emergency meeting, and pledged to keep rates at that level for at least 12 months.

The move on Monday comes after Australia made a historic foray into quantitative easing last Thursday and said it would do “whatever is necessary” to ensure funding costs are low as the coronavirus pandemic jolts businesses.

New Zealand last week also rolled out a NZ$12.1 billion fiscal stimulus package to support businesses and citizens struggling with the impact of COIVD-19. More stimulus is expected to be announced in the coming days.

RBNZ said financial conditions had tightened unnecessarily over the past week, reducing the impact of the low OCR on achieving the bank’s mandate.

“The monetary policy committee agreed that further monetary stimulus was needed to meet its inflation and employment objectives,” the statement said.

The Kiwi dollar was down 0.9%, dropping to $0.5658 after the RBNZ announcement.

The New Zealand government said it backed the RBNZ action.

“This is part of our strategy to mobilise all arms of New Zealand’s economic infrastructure in our fight against the COVID-19 virus,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said in a separate statement after the RBNZ announcement.

New Zealand has 66 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far but no deaths. It has imposed tough travel and movement restrictions to try and stop the spread of the virus.

Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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