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Tuesday January 31, 2006 - 20:47:53 GMT
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Forex: Westpac Institutional Bank Morning Report

New Zealand Dollar NZD resilient after announcement
The NZD held firm during the local session on Thursday, even as the RBNZ announced it would ease liquidity pressures by increasing the settlement cash level. Upon opening around 0.6810 the NZD looked resilient for most of the morning up until the RBNZ announcement. This was followed by heavy selling to 0.6795, and an even faster recovery with good buying interest noted from the Asian region. Along with most major currencies NZD gained overnight in expectation of the US Fed’s interest rate decision, currently sitting around 0.6850

Australian Dollar: AUD boosted by commodities
AUD surged above 75 cents yesterday, buoyed by gold prices reaching a new 25-year high and a positive business credit data release. Opening the day around 0.7480 it was largely one-way traffic during the local session with AUD closing the day around 0.7510. The strength continued overnight as AUD touched a 0.7575 high before retracing marginally.

Major Currencies: Market ignores data, awaits Fed
The foreign exchange market eagerly awaits Federal Reserve chairman Greenspan’s last FOMC meeting on interest rates this morning. So much so that last nights US economic data was ignored and had no effect on the major currencies. US consumer confidence in Jan grew to its highest level in three years and business activity in the mid-west expanded again albeit at a slower pace than expected. The market jockeyed for position on Tuesday not prepared to take an aggressive outlook leading into the Fed announcement, many traders paring back their long USD positions and hence pushing the dollar lower. Market participants have speculated whether the Fed will position itself for another hike in March or remove any bias giving incoming Fed chief, Ben Bernanke, a fresh start. The euro and yen both rallied 0.9% and sit at 1.2170 and 116.85 respectively ahead of the Fed decision. Sterling rallied 1% to 1.7857 and trades at 1.7835 early this morning.

The Fed lifted its funds target by 25bp to 4.50%, following the last FOMC meeting to be chaired by Alan Greenspan. The accompanying statement had minimal wording changes, the most significant being that “some further policy tightening may be needed” replaced “ likely to...”. “Measured” was dropped as well. This gives the freest possible hand to incoming Fed chair Bernanke to do as he sees fit at the next FOMC meeting in 8 weeks on March 28.

The US employment cost index grew 0.8% in Q4, confirming a very modest acceleration in H2 05. Benefit costs growth slowed a little, but remained higher than growth in the wages & salaries component of compensation, although that picked up to its fastest pace in almost three years.

US consumer confidence rose to 106.3 in Jan, its highest since mid 2002 in January, thanks to a very sharp jump in jobs market sentiment (which is supportive of our above consensus 270k forecast for January payrolls). Although still robust, the Chicago PMI slipped (from 60.8 to 58.5) in Jan, consistent with the regional Fed manufacturing indices from NY, Philly and Richmond. Also, the weekly retail reports were mixed: Redbook improved from –0.4% to –0.2% but chain store sales slumped 1.1%.

Canadian GDP rose 0.2% in Nov, the same pace as in Oct. Euroland confidence surveys for Jan. There was a sharp jump in economic sentiment, and generally improved business confidence in January, although the separate business climate index and consumer confidence were unchanged.

UK data mixed. There was strong housing data, both for prices and mortgage lending: the recovery continues. But despite stronger retail sales late last year, consumer credit continues to slow, and the CBI’s retail survey for Jan was softer. Ajump in consumer confidence In Jan was typical: the series is not seasonally adjusted. All up, mixed data which will keep the Bank of England on hold.

Events Today
Country Release Last Forecast
NZ Dec Merchandise Trade Bal NZDmn –1205 –665
Aus Jan DEWR Skilled Vacancies Trend –0.1% –
US Dec Construction Spending 0.2% –0.4%
Jan ISM Manufacturing 55.6 54.5
Jpn Dec Ordinary Earnings %yr 0.1% –
Eur Jan PMI Manufacturing 53.6 53.8
Dec Unemployment Rate % 8.3 8.3
Eur Jan PMI Manufacturing 51.1 51.3

Latest Research papers/Publication
• NZ Terms of Trade:History & Significance (26 January)
• NZ RBNZ OCR Review (26 January)
• NZ Weekly Forex Outlook (23 January)
• NZ Q4 CPI Review/OCR Preview (18 January)
• NZ Q4 QSBO Review (17 January)
• NZ Weekly Forex Outlook (16 January)
• NZ Weekly Interest Rate Wrap-up (16 January)
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 24 May 2005. 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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