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New Zealand poised to raise rates as economy booms

In New Zealand, a far different scenario is playing out. The central bank considers the Kiwi dollar as the local currency is known to be too high but is willing to risk it strengthening further to keep inflation and a heated housing market in check.

A typical lunch hour in the capital, Wellington, indicates the growing confidence among consumers. Queues form outside many popular eateries, including at the Chef's Palette, where a couple of dozen people stand in line waiting to get takeout salads or light meals.

Owner Xiao Xin said business has grown steadily since he opened in 2011, but customers remain price conscious. Many affluent city workers are willing to wait in line for a meal that cost about $5, he said, and when he last increased prices the queues disappeared for a while before customers began slowly returning.

"People are busy," he said. "They want fast, healthy food. But it has to be cheap."

Economic surveys indicate that everyone from New Zealand business owners to consumers are more confident than they have been since before the 2008 downturn. Unemployment remains a manageable 6.2 percent, and some farmers in the agricultural-driven economy have never experienced such good times.

"We are seeing very positive confidence out there in most of the rural sector. Dairying is head-and-shoulders above everything else," said Bruce Wills, president of the advocacy group Federated Farmers. "Farmers are getting the highest dairy payout in history this season."

Wills said many farmers have managed to reduce their debt and improve the infrastructure on their farms thanks to the milk boom. But he cautioned that volatility in prices and weather can quickly change the outlook. Some farmers are still recovering from a widespread drought last year.

New Zealand's Finance Minister Bill English said he's "pretty positive" about the direction of the economy but he's cautiously awaiting the rise in interest rates.

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