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Tuesday April 1, 2008 - 20:02:35 GMT
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FX Research - Morning Report

Morning Report  Wednesday 2 April 2008

News and views
The US dollar
made strong gains across the board, as the balance of the economic news finally started to swing in its favour. The US ISM manufacturing index beat market forecasts, though remained at contractionary levels, while German retail spending fell well short of expectations. The euro and Swiss franc were also hit after UBS announced $19bn of writedowns – apparently an attempt to clear the decks, with their chairman resigning as well – and Deutsche wrote down another $2.5bn. The yen was the worst performing currency, falling more than 2% as yesterday’s weak Tankan business survey and a pickup in risk appetite weighed. US credit markets made strong gains, with the quarter-end liquidity pressures now behind them, and the Dow gained nearly 3%.

The New Zealand dollar slipped lower against the US dollar, but was probably saved by a lack of news and actually gained against the other majors. The Westpac employment confidence index, released yesterday, was down in Q1 but held up reasonably well compared to other recent confidence surveys. The NZD fell below 0.78 after the US data, but a strong finish on US equity markets helped the currency to bounce back to 0.7840.

The Australian dollar fell through 0.91 after the RBA’s rate review, and continued to slide overnight to a one-week low. The RBA left the cash rate unchanged at 7.25% as expected, but the statement suggested a greater degree of confidence that demand and inflation will moderate as required. While inflation is still set to threaten 4% this year, it’s less likely that the RBA will need to raise rates again this year. The NZD/AUD cross bounced to 0.8860 after a week of losses.

The US ISM manufacturing index edged up 0.3pts to 48.6 in March, beating forecasts of 47.5. This outcome is broadly consistent with the general pattern in the regional surveys – manufacturing conditions were negative in Mar, but not as negative as in Feb. That said, the prospects for manufacturing remain downbeat. Notably, new orders are going backwards, weakening to 46.5 from 49.1. New export orders remain a bright spot, holding around the 56 level. Prices paid jumped to 83.5 in Mar, as global oil prices climbed to a record $110. Oil prices have subsequently pulled back towards $100. The jobs index was a little less negative in Mar, recovering to 49.2 from 46.0. This lends some support to the view that March payrolls on Friday night may surprise on the high side.

US construction spending contracted 0.3% in March. Residential fell, albeit not as sharply as in early months and non-residential was broadly stable following a couple months of decline. Housing starts point to the correction in housing construction persisting for some time yet and the outlook for non-residential has deteriorated, as lending standards are tightened.

German real retail sales were much weaker than anticipated, falling 1.6% in Mar. Also, the Feb number was downgraded to a rise of 0.9% from 1.6%. This weak retail outcome suggests that consumers are becoming more cautious, notwithstanding current jobs strength, and that accelerating inflation is eroding consumer spending power. Retail sales over the year went nowhere, declining by 0.3%.

Euroland unemployment held at a record low of 7.1%, down from 7.6% a year ago. Unemployment has declined over the last three years as expanding exports generated jobs. The German unemployment rate fell by more than expected, falling to 7.8% in Mar, the lowest level since 1992. That is down from 8.0% last month and from 8.8% six months ago.

There has been a subtle but important shift in FX markets in recent days – currencies are increasingly trading on their own news, and less so as proxies for global growth / risk aversion / etc. That may not mean much for the New Zealand dollar, where the data calendar will be light over the next week. But it is crucial for the broad US dollar, with some key data in coming days, including the non-manufacturing ISM (Thurs) and payrolls (Fri). Our data ‘surprise’ index suggests that market forecasters have become more pessimistic and are now more vulnerable to upside surprises, even if the data is still soft in absolute terms. The risk is for a sustained US dollar bounce in coming weeks, which would weigh on the NZD accordingly

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

Upcoming Events
Date Country Release Last Forecast

2 Apr US Fed Chairman Bernanke testimony
Feb Factory Orders –2.5% –0.8%
Mar ADP Employment Change –23k –40k
Eur Feb PPI %yr 4.9% 5.2%
UK Feb Net Consumer Credit £bn 0.9 0.9
Feb Net Mortgage Lending £bn 7.4 7.2
Mar PMI Construction 52.4 –
Q4 Mortgage Equity Withdrawal 10.5 9.5
3 Apr NZ Mar ANZ Commodity Prices 0.9% –
US Mar ISM Non-Manufacturing 49.3 49.0

Latest Research Papers/Publications
• NZ Q1 Employment Confidence Index (1 April)
• Falling net migration to
New Zealand (1 April)
• NZ Weekly Forex Outlook (31 March)
• NZ Q4 GDP Review (28 March)
• NZ Q4 Current Account Review (27 March)
NZ Q1 Consumer Confidence (26 March)
• NZ Weekly Forex Outlook (25 March)

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

or Currenciesstralian Dollarw Zealand Dollar

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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