When a central bank keeps its benchmark interest rate unchanged as expected, the microscope goes on the accompanying text for clues to his next move.
On the face of it, Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard has stuck to his guns in reiterating a hike in the official cash rate around mid-year though there are subtle differences from what he said in the December Monetary Policy Statement (MPS).
For a start, there's no mention in his Jan. 28 review of the impact of a high kiwi dollar in curbing the contribution exports can make to economic recovery. He's also become more definitive about the mid-year date. Provided the economy continues to recover, the RBNZ "would expect" to begin removing policy stimulus around the middle of 2010. In December he used the word "may."
Bollard doesn't want to spur on the charging horses. There's no mileage in sounding more hawkish immediately because markets respond with an immediate adjustment to short-term interest rates. By March though, when the next full MPS is released, there may be more signs that the hawk has returned.
Economists are picking he will start hiking in April and bring the OCR back up to a neutral level, say around 4.5%, over the following few months. Even though the Federal Reserve is sticking to its guns in keeping interest rates near zero, New Zealand doesn't have the same depth of labour market dysfunction and the local housing market has proved somewhat more resilient.
What's unusual in the current circumstances is the extent to which Australia is ahead of New Zealand in returning to a tightening cycle and inflation data for the fourth quarter across the Tasman (CPI +0.5% in the fourth quarter) suggests the Reserve Bank of Australia will keep hiking.
Contrast that with New Zealand, where Bollard proved to have a better take on the Consumer Price Index than many economists in picking a 0.2% decline in the final three months of 2009.
Bollard is assured of maximum bang for his buck when he resumes hiking rates this year. Changes to the composition of home loans mean 62% of mortgages are on floating rates or terms of less than 12 months.
At the peak of the property boom two years ago, about 40% of home loans were on variable or short term rates. How will that affect the behavior of home owners? Potentially, the next few months could be a busy time for mortgage refinancing, especially if Bollard's March MPS shows the gloves are off and higher interest rates are looming.
Like any market, the laws of supply and demand suggest a rush to lock in longer-term rates before they move higher will have the affect of pushing up mortgage rates anyway. Banks will be anticipating Bollard anyway so the window of opportunity may be slim.
The global backdrop is also likely to become rosier over coming months though at a gradual pace given concern at China's efforts to rein in credit and U.S. President Barack Obama's intention to clip the wings of U.S. lenders to safeguard against another global financial crisis.
Ratings agency Moody's Investors Service is signaling the recovery, lifting its assessment of the outlook for 12 economies across Asia and predicting a return to easier credit. Moody's raised the outlook for New Zealand banks to stable.
But don't expect a repeat of 2009. Equity markets worldwide came roaring back from the recessionary lows in early 2009 and commodity prices rallied. The prospects for 2010 are for recovery to continue at a more moderate pace.