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Wednesday March 19, 2008 - 20:17:08 GMT
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FX Research - Morning Report

Morning Report  Thursday 20 March 2008

News and views
The New Zealand dollar fell back towards 0.80 as markets were hit by a wave of rumours about credit losses and shaky banks. In the end, there was little of any substance, and it’s interesting to note that UK regulators have begun to investigate whether traders have been trying to manipulate stock prices by spreading false rumours. Nevertheless, nervous markets and poor liquidity combined to leave the NZD down nearly 2% from its overnight highs.

Risk trades in general fared poorly. The Australian dollar fell from a high of 0.9350 to as low as 0.9130, while the pound dropped from 2.0150 to 1.9820, with the UK market the subject of some of the overnight rumours. Commodities took a major hit for the second time this week – gold lost 4% and crude oil fell back to $104 a barrel. The sense is that the most crowded trades – short US dollars, short equities, long commodities – are due for a reversal.

The minutes to the Bank of England’s March policy meeting showed a 7:2 vote in favour of this month’s decision to hold rates steady at 5.25%. The dissenters were arch-dove Blanchflower and Gieve (the deputy governor for financial stability), who favoured a 25bp rate cut. After cutting rates in Feb, the Committee decided to pause in March given inflation concerns. The Feb CPI data (published yesterday) showed headline inflation accelerating to 2.5% from 2.2%.  In the short-term, the risk is that headline inflation hits 3%. The dissenters pointed to deteriorating conditions in the US and financial markets fragility. We expect the BoE to cut rates again in May.

UK unemployment declined at a slower pace in Feb, falling 2.8k after a 9.1k drop in Jan. This is a sign that the jobs market is beginning to lose steam, against the backdrop of slowing activity. That said, the starting point for the labour market is one of strength. Notably, unemployment fell for a 17th month to a three decade low in Feb. As for earnings, they remain contained. Indeed, the headline earnings measure decelerated by 0.3ppts between Nov and Jan, which we can speculate was due to lower bonuses (because the ex-bonus measure rose).

The UK CBI survey of manufacturers showed firmer orders and output in Mar. Manufacturing appears to be holding up while the rest of the economy slows. A key positive for manufacturing is the pound’s sharp 14% depreciation against the euro, the region that receives half of British exports. However, the further acceleration in the CBI survey price measure, rising to the highest level since 1995 after oil costs climbed, points to ongoing upside risk in the producer price data. This will remain of concern to the more hawkish of the BoE.

The Euroland trade position was in deficit for a second consecutive month. The deficit came in at €2.0 in Jan, widening slightly from a €1.8bn deficit in Dec, which was the first deficit in 16 months. The US economic slowdown and euro strength are crimping exports. Indeed exports to the US fell in 2007, down 3%.

NZD direction remains dominated by sentiment towards the US dollar and global risk sentiment. Through most of last week US dollar sentiment looked to be heading ever lower, helping the NZD reach new post-float highs. Near-term direction for risk aversion remains intimately linked to global equity market announcements. This is likely to see the NZD track broadly sideways but within a fairly wide 0.79-0.82 range.

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

Latest Research Papers/Publications
• NZ Q4 GDP Preview (19 March)
• NZ Q4 Current Account Preview (19 March)
• NZ Weekly Forex Outlook (10 March)
• NZ Agribiz March 2008 (12 March)
• NZ Q4 Terms of Trade Review (11 March)

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

Events Today
Country Release Last Forecast

NZ Feb External Migration ann. 4,800 3,590
Aus Q1 WBC-ACCI Survey of Indust Trends 55.8 –
Feb Sales of New Motor Vehicles 0.6% 0.5%
US Mar
Philadelphia Fed Index –24 –17
Initial Jobless Claims, w/e
Mar 15 353k 360k
Feb Leading Index –0.1% –0.3%
Jpn Public
Holiday, Spring Equinox
Eur Mar PMI Manufacturing Adv 52.3 52.0
Mar PMI Services Adv 52.3 52.0

UK Feb Retail Sales 0.8% –0.2%
Feb M4 Money Supply %yr 13.1% 12.9%
Feb PSNCR £bn –22.1 2.5
Can Feb Leading Index 0.2% 0.1%

jor Currencies Dollar Zealan

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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