By James Glynn

SYDNEY--The Reserve Bank of New Zealand signaled that interest rates might need to remain restrictive for higher than expected due to stubborn inflation, delivering a hawkish shock to money markets.

The central bank left its official cash rate unchanged at 5.50%, which was widely expected by economists, but nudged higher its expected track for the OCR, saying it remains concerned about domestic inflation pressures and capacity constraints within the economy.

"We expect that the OCR will need to remain at a restrictive level for longer than assumed in the February statement, in order for inflation to return to the 2 percent target midpoint," the RBNZ said.

"The higher outlook for the OCR than in the February statement reflects the higher starting point for non-tradables inflation and capacity pressures, as well as a higher medium-term outlook for tradables inflation based on higher import prices," it added.

The New Zealand dollar jumped by half a U.S. cent after the statement.

"It's more hawkish than what the markets had expected. The RBNZ is putting less weight on the softer data than most expected," said Sharon Zollner, chief economist at ANZ.

Write to James Glynn at; @JamesGlynnWSJ

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

05-21-24 2242ET