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Tuesday February 19, 2008 - 20:25:16 GMT
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FX Research - Morning Report

Morning Report  Wednesday 20 February 2008

News and views
New Zealand dollar rose above 0.80 for the first time since July last year, peaking at around 0.8020. The strong outlook for the Australian economy, the prospect of higher interest rates, and the relative calm in offshore financial markets, have helped to draw investors back to the Australasian currencies. In fact, our analysis of investor flows suggests that they have rapidly gone from being net sellers of NZD to net buyers in the last week, though buying has been short of historical extremes.

The Australian dollar reached fresh three-month highs around 0.9230 after the RBA indicated, in case anyone still hadn’t got the message, that further rate hikes are on the way. The minutes of the RBA’s February meeting showed that the committee had debated between a 25bp and a 50bp rate hike, and the decision to go with the smaller hike was “finely balanced”. Today’s wage growth data should seal the case for another rate hike in early March, though the RBA has recently downplayed this measure in favour of the national accounts measures of income growth.

Among the other major currencies, the euro and yen gained against the US dollar, but the pound fell on continued concerns about the state of the UK banking system. At least Barclays had some good news to deliver –earnings met forecasts despite credit-related losses of more than $3bn, and a positive analyst conference call helped the share price higher. Credit Suisse revealed an extra $2.85bn of writedowns, due to an overvaluation of its bond holdings.

US markets reopened after the Presidents’ Day holiday, but there still wasn’t a lot of news to guide traders. The NAHB homebuilder confidence index surprised the market by rising for a second month, but remains at the lows seen in the 1991 recession. However, there has been growing interest in tonight’s CPI figures for January – higher fuel and food prices and recent US dollar weakness suggest there are risks to the upside. US ten-year bond yields rose overnight to a one-month high of 3.90% on inflation fears; a strong reading could threaten technical resistance around 4% and open the door for a sharp move higher in long-term interest rates around the world.

The Canadian dollar fell after the January CPI printed slightly lower than forecast, bringing the annual rate down from 2.4% to 2.2%. Core inflation edged down from 1.5% to 1.4%, still reflecting the 17% rise in the Canadian dollar last year. Wholesale sales fell 2.9% in December, with soft auto sales a driving factor. Q4 GDP growth, released in early March, will struggle to hit 1.0% annualised.

There was little resistance to the New Zealand dollar’s move through 0.80 last night, suggesting there is still scope for it to head higher. While the record high of 0.8110 may present more of a barrier, the Australian dollar is still well short of its previous highs, and has the potential to keep dragging the NZD along with it. The RBA remains extremely concerned about inflation, and the likelihood of another year of substantial increases in iron ore prices, bodes very well for the AUD in the medium term.

The outlook for the NZD is hamstrung slightly by the lack of any significant news on the horizon. The usual monthly indicators next week – building consents, credit growth, migration, business confidence – will probably be soft, but the more significant release will be the RBNZ’s inflation expectations survey. With expectations nearing the top of the target range and likely to rise further, the RBNZ could be forced into a more hawkish stance in the March statement, providing further yield support for the NZD.

Events Today
Country Release Last Forecast

Aust Dec Westpac-MI Leading Index 6.4% n/f
Q4 Wage Price Index %qtr 1.0% 1.2%
US Jan CPI/Core 0.3%/0.2% 0.4%/0.2%
Jan Housing Starts/Permits -14.2%/-8.1% 3.0%/flat
Jan 29-30 FOMC Minutes
Jpn Bank of
Japan Minutes
Ger Jan Producer Prices %yr 3.7% n/f

UK Feb BoE MPC Minutes 8:1 9:0
Jan PSNCR £bn 17.0 -19.5
Jan M4 Money Supply %yr 12.3% 11.9%
Feb CBI Industrial Trends Survey 2 n/f
Can Jan Leading Index -0.1% flat

Latest Research Papers/Publications
• NZ Weekly Forex Outlook (18 February)
• NZ Q4 Retail Sales Review (15 February)
• The rules have changed (14 February)
• NZ Interest Rate Focus (12 February)

These papers/publications are available on Online Research on
Westpac Institutional Bank’s website (

Michael Gordon, Market Strategist, Wellington, Ph: (04) 470 8266
With contributions from Westpac Economics and Westpac Strategy

ajor Currencies

Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 incorporated in Australia (NZ division). Information current as at 14 November 2007. 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 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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