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Wednesday January 23, 2008 - 19:38:47 GMT
Westpac Institutional Bank - www.westpac.co.nz

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FX Research - Morning Report Thursday 24 January 2008

Morning Report  Thursday 24 January 2008

News and views
The New Zealand dollar
drifted lower overnight, as the effects of the Fed’s surprise rate cut faded and the steady drip-feed of negative news and rumours returned. Persistent rumours of large writedowns by European banks kept credit markets under pressure, and equities were weighed down by weak earnings reports from Apple and Motorola, a sign that discretionary spending is taking a hit. The NZD slipped from yesterday’s highs around 0.7670 to as low as 0.7550 early this morning. However, activity was subdued ahead of today’s OCR review.

The Australian dollar was also down slightly against the US dollar but was one of the better performers on the day, as the prospect of another RBA rate hike provided yield support. Two of the usual suspects in the Australian press wrote that a hike at the February meeting is a near certainty after yesterday’s stronger than expected inflation figures; in practice, though, we doubt the RBA will act this early if global markets have not stabilised by then.

The pound and euro fell on speculation that their central banks would cut rates in tandem with the Fed. ECB head Trichet repeated his concerns about inflation, but the market brushed this off and has been quick to price in rate cuts in coming months. The minutes to the BoE’s January meeting showed an 8-1 vote to keep rates on hold, with just arch-dove Blanchflower voting for a further immediate cut. The members noted that economic growth was poised to slow, but that inflation may accelerate to match decade highs.

Euroland advance PMIs for January showed steady manufacturing but a further decline in services, which combined to pull the composite PMI down to its lowest since mid-2005. This is consistent with the less up-beat message from other business surveys, suggesting that euro strength, high oil prices, banking sector wobbles and concerns about the US economy are all taking their toll on European business confidence.

UK GDP grew 0.6% in Q4, slightly ahead of market forecasts and consideredto be broadly in line with the long-term trend growth rate (2.5% yr). The limited detail in the advance report showed services and construction growth both slowing from 0.8% to 0.7% and manufacturing flat at 0%. The latest partial data and official commentary suggest that this modest growth slowdown in the second half of 2007 will become more severe in 2008, although a UK recession is likely to be avoided.

Minor US data had no impact on markets. Mortgage applications jumped 8.3% last week, on top of the prior week’s 28.4% gain and a 32.2% gain before that. Most of this strength has been in refinancing, up 126% on a year ago, as mortgage rates have fallen to multi-year lows. In contrast, applications for mortgages to purchase are up just 6.6% yr. Chain store sales rose 0.7% last week, failing to fully reverse the prior week’s 0.9% fall. The Redbook retail average slipped from –0.1% to –0.2% in the second retail week of this month. These indications point to a sluggish month for retailing, although maybe not as weak as December.

Outlook
The Fed’s surprise rate cut on Wednesday night has gone some way to pull markets out of their downward spiral – more so in credit markets, which arguably present a greater risk to growth than weak equities. But there is still some way to go before confidence is restored – money markets are now leaning towards another 75bp Fed cut at next week’s scheduled review. Any further gains in the NZD will be hard-won in this environment.

Locally, the main event is today’s OCR review. We expect the RBNZ to remain on hold, but to maintain a hawkish tone. Inflation pressures are mounting, but housing is correcting a touch faster than anticipated and there is greater uncertainty around the global outlook. In recent times the RBNZ has been good about flagging their next move, so if they retain the ‘on hold’ bias of previous statements then we will push out our rate hike call into Q2, when international concerns may have abated.

Upcoming Events
Date Country Release Last Forecast

24 Jan NZ RBNZ OCR Review 8.25% 8.25%
Dec Credit Card Transactions 1.2% n/f
US Dec Exist Home Sales %mth 0.4% –0.2%
Initial Jobless Claims w/e 19/1 301k 320k
Jpn Dec Trade Balance ¥bn 891 780
Nov All–Industry Activity Index 1.2% –0.4%
Ger Jan IFO Bus Climate Survey 103.0 102.3
Can BoC Monetary Policy Report
25 Jan Jpn Bank of Japan Minutes (Dec)
Dec Nat’l Consumer Prices %yr 0.6% 0.7%

Latest Research Papers/Publications
• NZ Weekly Forex Outlook (21 January)
• RBNZ OCR Preview (17 January)
• NZ Q4 CPI Review (17 January)
• NZ Interest Rate Focus (16 January)
• NZ Q4 QSBO Review (15 January)
• NZ Weekly Forex Outlook (14 January)
• NZ Q4 CPI Preview (10 January)

These papers/publications are available on Online Research on
Westpac Institutional Bank’s website (www.wib.westpac.co.nz)


Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 incorporated in Australia (NZ division). Information current as at 24 January 2008. All customers please note that this information has been prepared without taking account of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this you should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness, having regard to your objectives, financial situation or needs. Australian customers can obtain Westpac’s financial services guide by calling +612 9284 8372, visiting www.westpac.com.au or visiting any Westpac Branch. The information may contain material provided directly by third parties, and while such material is published with permission, Westpac accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of any such material. Except where contrary to law, Westpac intends by this notice to exclude liability for the information. The information is subject to change without notice and Westpac is under no obligation to update the information or correct any inaccuracy which may become apparent at a later date. Westpac Banking Corporation is regulated for the conduct of investment business in the United Kingdom by the Financial Services Authority. © 2004 Westpac Banking Corporation. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The forecasts given in this document are predictive in character. Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure that the assumptions on which the forecasts are based are reasonable, the forecasts may be affected by incorrect assumptions or by known or unknown risks and uncertainties. The ultimate outcomes may differ substantially from these forecasts.




 

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