The Reserve Bank has kept the official cash rate (OCR) at 2.5 per cent today, but hinted it could be lowered later this year.

In the first review of the benchmark New Zealand interest rate of 2016, Governor Graeme Wheeler said lowering the cost of borrowing "may be required" to boost inflation in the coming year.

Wheeler's statement suggested the Reserve Bank was willing to ignore the influence of "temporary" price movements - meaning the recent fall in the price of fuel - in its decision making.

The Reserve Bank's statement acknowledged that the outlook for inflation was weaker than it had expected. Although it still expected inflation to increase in 2016, it would "take longer to reach the target range than previously expected".

While banks do not lend money at the rate of the OCR, the benchmark rate has a major influence on the interest rates households pay on mortgages, and the returns paid by banks on deposits.

Financial market experts said the statement meant there was a chance that interest rates could be lowered as soon as March.

ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley said the statement gave a clearer hint that lower interest rates could be coming "but not an explicit signal that the [Reserve Bank] will necessarily cut the OCR as soon as March".

Wheeler's statement said that the Reserve Bank expected New Zealand's economic growth to pick up this year, but there were "many risks" which could undermine this.

Source: Stuff.co.nz