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Thursday April 3, 2008 - 20:14:57 GMT
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FX Research - Morning Report

Morning Report  Friday 4 April 2008


News and views

The New Zealand dollar lost ground against the other major currencies, but was generally sidelined as markets focused on economic news elsewhere. The US dollar strengthened early in the overnight session, but pulled back after a sharp rise in jobless claims figures. The NZD dipped from 0.7900 to 0.7810, before recovering back to 0.7860 this morning. The Australian dollar followed much the same pattern but managed a more convincing rebound, pushing the NZD/AUD cross to a fresh three-week low of 0.8570.


The euro fell after a weak retail sales report for the region, but recovered as the USD in turn was hit by softer data, and ECB officials maintained their hawkish running commentary. Dutch head Wellink said that inflation is accelerating worldwide, while Austrian head Liebscher said that inflation is at an “unpleasant” level. The pound was well bid overnight, rumoured to be related to a large M&A deal.


US initial jobless claims jumped 38k to 407k in the week ended 29 Mar. The 4wk moving average climbed to 374k, well up from 312k a year ago. The sharp rise in claims to above the 400k mark brings them more into line with the reality that payrolls are already contracting. We would caution that claims can initially understate the extent of labour market weakness at this stage of the cycle. Firms initially respond by placing a freeze on hiring and later opt to fire existing workers. The labour market will deteriorate further – with claims and the unemployment rate to rise – given weakness in economic activity.


US ISM non-manufacturing edged up 0.3pts in March. Even so, the index was in the contraction zone for the third month at 49.6. Supplier deliveries slipped, easing to 49.0. However, there was a slight improvement in new orders, rising to 50.2. The jobs index contracted for the third month, remaining at 46.9. The price index rebounded to be above 70 in Mar, as crude oil hit record highs.


Euroland retail sales fell by 0.5% in Feb. Sales in Germany plunged 1.6% in the month, despite labour market strength. The evidence is now accumulating that weakness in the US, the credit crunch and rising energy and food prices are translating into deteriorating conditions in Europe. Euroland PMI services final for March was revised 0.1pts lower to 51.6. The composite was also nudged 0.1pts lower.


The UK services PMI reversed the temporary strength in Feb, easing 1.9pts back to 52.1 in Mar. That returns the index to the modest expansion zone evident over recent months. Even so, services are outperforming other sectors of the economy, with readings for the factory and construction PMI surveys at 51.3 and 47.2, respectively. Of concern, the prices charged sub-index for the services sector held above 56 in Mar.



With quarter-end funding pressures out of the way, and a range of new liquidity measures in place, a relative calm has descended on financial markets, allowing them to focus more on the economic news. That means that a lot is resting on tonight’s US payrolls figures – the median forecast is for a 50k drop, but there are good arguments for a surprise on either side. A weaker number would confirm fears of recession and undermine the US dollar, while a better than expected read could see the US dollar’s recovery extend into coming weeks.


The renewed focus on economic data is likely to weigh against the NZD, as the economy faces a soft patch in the first part of this year. The NZIER business opinion survey (Tuesday), and housing figures for March (due in the next week or so) are likely to play into that view, but the generally patchy data calendar over the next few weeks means that confirmation of a slowdown will be slow in coming. Improved risk appetite may provide some bounces in NZD in the meantime, but these should offer better opportunities to sell.


Michael Gordon, Market Strategist, Wellington, Ph: (04) 470 8266

With contributions from Westpac Economics and Westpac Strategy


Upcoming Events

Date Country Release Last Forecast

4 Apr Aus RBA Governor Stevens appearance, Sydney

Feb Retail Sales flat 0.2%

US Mar Non-Farm Payrolls chg –63k –30k

Mar Unemployment Rate 4.8% 5.0%

Fedspeak: Mishkin, Yellen

Ger Feb Factory Orders –1.5% 0.9%

Can Mar Employment chg 43.3k 12.5k

Mar Ivey PMI nsa 62.0 –

7 Apr Aus Mar ANZ Job Ads –2.0% –

Feb Building Approvals 1.9% –

Feb Trade Balance AUDbn –2723 –


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 (


Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 incorporated in Australia (NZ division). Information current as at 4 April 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 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


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