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New Zealand CPI Hits 2.2% In Q1, Five-Year High

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Consumer prices in New Zealand jumped 2.2 percent on year in the first quarter of 2017, Statistics New Zealand said on Thursday.

That topped forecasts for a gain of 2.0 percent following the 1.3 percent increase in the previous three months.

This is the highest annual increase since the September 2011 quarter, the last quarter affected by the rise in GST from 12.5 to 15 percent.

"Rising petrol prices along with the annual rise in cigarette and tobacco tax lifted inflation," prices senior manager Jason Attewell said. "Petrol prices in New Zealand are closely linked to global oil prices, and cigarettes and tobacco taxes rise in the March quarter each year."

Housing-related prices continued to increase, up 3.3 percent on year. Prices increased for newly built houses, excluding land (up 6.7 percent), and for housing rentals (up 2.3 percent). Newly built houses, excluding land, were up 8.0 percent in Auckland and 3.6 percent in Christchurch.

Transport prices (up 3.5 percent) made the second largest upward contribution with petrol (up 12 percent) partially offset by falls in other private transport services (vehicle relicensing fees).

Prices fell for broadband and cellphone plans, as well as handsets. Improvements to speed and data capacity improved the quality of the service, which is reflected as a price fall.

Excluding petrol, and cigarettes and tobacco, the CPI showed a 1.5 percent increase.

On a seasonally adjusted quarterly basis, consumer prices were up 1.0 percent - again exceeding forecasts for 0.8 percent and up from 0.4 percent in the three months prior.

"Higher prices for cigarettes and tobacco, petrol, and fruit were partly offset by lower prices for international air transport, and package holidays," Attewell said.

Cigarette and tobacco prices made the largest upward contribution for the quarter (up 9.7 percent), reflecting the annual tax increase in the March quarter.

Petrol prices continued to rise (up 4.1 percent). The average price of a liter of 91 octane petrol in the March 2017 quarter was NZ$1.90, up from NZ$1.82 in the December 2016 quarter, and NZ$1.75 in the September quarter.

Rents increased 0.8 percent in the March quarter, with 84 percent of the sample showing no price change.

by RTT Staff Writer

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