AUD and NZD outperformance

Just as the euro looked as though it was showing some signs of rebounding following the battering it received in the wake of the downgrade of Greece’s credit ratings, S&P placed Spain on credit watch negative from neutral, which helped drag EUR/USD all the way down again. Expect more to come as sovereign risk concerns / fiscal deficit remain in focus. EUR/USD was helped by the usual sovereign demand, preventing a test of technical support around 1.4625 but another push lower is likely over the short term.

Despite a tough budget from Ireland yesterday, it alongside the likes of Latvia, Ireland, Hungary and Portugal will remain on the ratings agencies’ hit lists. Eurozone periphery bond spreads have widened sharply against bunds but even larger countries in Europe such as Italy have seen an increase in funding costs. Added to these concerns are the lingering uncertainties about Dubai as reflected in the continued rise in CDS.

In contrast, growth worries are receding quickly in Australia where another robust jobs report was released. Employment rose 31.2k in November, with an upward revision to the previous month, to 27.2k from 24.5k initially. The details looked good too, with much of the jobs increase coming from full time hires (30.8k). The jobless rate fell to 5.7% compared to 5.8% in October. Taken together with the hawkish slant to the RBNZ statement, the data will help keep the AUD and NZD resilient to any sell off in risk trades.

The decision by the RBNZ to leave interest rates unchanged at 2.5% came as no surprise. However, Governor Bollard did shift away from the earlier pledge not to hike interest rates until H2 10 and stated that a hike could come around the middle of 2010. The RBNZ also upgraded its growth forecasts. A rate hike could come even earlier in my view, a factor likely to keep the NZD well supported.

Markets will digest more interest rate decisions today, in the UK and Switzerland. No change is likely from both the BoE and SNB but the issue of QE will remain at the forefront, especially given the split decision by the BoE MPC at the last meeting. As for the SNB the usual concerns about CHF strength are likely to be expressed but the tone of the SNB’s comments are likely to remain dovish, expressing little urgency to begin implementing an exit strategy.

The US data slate is light but does include weekly jobless claims and October trade data. There will be more interest than usual on the claims data given the surprise in last week’s payrolls report. Claims have been on an improving trend declining at a more rapid pace than previous recessions and markets will eye the numbers to determine whether they point to further improvement in payrolls or whether they suggest the November data was merely an aberration.

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