Bill English did his weekly round of media interviews this morning and stopped short of a full condemnation of Donald Trump's ban on refugees and migrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. He said on RNZ he disagreed with the policy, but declined to call it racist, saying it was not for him to defend the policy.
English said he was focused on insuring the interests of Muslim New Zealanders, particularly those in dual passport situations, were protected. He said the Government was checking to see if dual passport holders were exempt in the same way British and some other dual passport holders may be.
Trump's ongoing barrage of executive orders and tweets looks set to dominate the political agenda globally for months to come, with the biggest focus for us being around America's relationship with China and whether the political, military and trade situation in North Asia and across the Pacific remains stable.
China's clampdown on capital outflows through December and January to hold up the value of the renminbi and protect its US$3 trillion of foreign reserves is a factor to watch in all the dramas around China's trade and political relations with the rest of the world. Trump's upending of the 50-year-old One China policy and the threats from his nominee for Secretary of State to block China's island-building strategy in the South China Sea have already created tensions, while Trump's repeated threats of tariffs on Chinese imports are also worrying.
The drying up of outward capital flows is already affecting property markets globally, as detailed in this Bloomberg piece from last Friday.
Lending to landlords slows again
Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank published its monthly data series showing its new 40% deposit requirement for landlords is continuing to slow lending to that group, while first home buyers continued to borrow more than a year ago and grow borrowing faster than existing home owners.
Total new mortgage flow to rental property investors fell to NZ$1.575 billion in December from NZ$1.737 billion in November, and was down from NZ$2.006 billion in December 2015. First home buyer lending in December was NZ$809 million, up from NZ$700 million a year ago, although it was down from NZ$897 million in November as the market went into its usual pre-Christmas slow-down.
Other owner occupier borrowing, which often relates to home owners trading up or renovating, fell to NZ$3.421 billion in December from NZ$3.648 billion in November, but was marginally up from NZ$3.243 billion a year ago.
The Reserve Bank will give a fuller picture of lending growth, which includes net mortgage growth and lending to businesses and farmers, later today. The other big numbers tomorrow will be jobs and wages figures for the December quarter.
Net migration rises higher still
The economic and political pressure from record high migration grew again in December, continuing to defy economist and Government forecasts of a slowdown.
Statistics New Zealand reported this morning a record-high 70,600 net migrants arrived in New Zealand in the year to December, with an increase in work visa arrivals more than offsetting a fall in student numbers from India in particular.
A record high 127,300 migrants arrived during the year, including 41,600 on work visas, which was up by 3,800 from the previous year. The number of student visas fell by 3,300 over the year, with student visas from India falling by 4,131 to 6,702 after a series of fraud crackdowns and tougher English language requirements deterred arrivals.
Seasonally adjusted net migration was 6,010 in the month of December, down from 6,190 in November and a high of 6,330 in September, but the annual figure continued to edge higher. The fastest growth in net migration came from Europe (in particular Germany and France) and South Africa.
Auckland continues to be the largest recipient of net migration, with 33,916 in the 2016 year, up from 29,979 the previous year. A net 86,901 people have migrated to Auckland in the last three years.
Quote of the day:
White House Counsellor Steve Bannon , who is seen as the architect of Trump's latest refugee and visitor bans, in comments reported by the Daily Beast from November 2013:
"Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment."
Tweets of the day:
James G Cobb after Angela Merkel's office said she explained the Geneva Convention to Donald Trump in a phone call:
The Germans are now explaining the Geneva Conventions to the US president. Explain that to your WWII veteran great-grandfather.