Interest Rate Decisions Galore

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) decision to cut policy rates by a bigger than expected 50bps does not necessarily mark the onset of a new wave of NZD selling. Indeed, whilst the NZD was hit by the rate cut it recovered quickly.

The NZD was aided by comments from the RBNZ Governor Bollard that short term inflation may spike due to the earthquake but this tempered by another RBNZ official who stated that the central bank may hold rates at 2.5% at least until January 2012. The post meeting statement indicated that the RBNZ will not embark on a series of rate cuts, a fact that will provide some relief to the Kiwi. Moreover, the currency looks increasingly oversold especially relative to the AUD as indicated by relative positioning.

Weaker than expected employment data in Australia will also help to stem AUD strength versus NZD. After many months of positive surprises the labour market is showing signs of cracking. Admittedly full time employment rose but this was outweighed by an even bigger drop in part time employment, resulting in a 10.1k fall in overall employment.

Although the AUD is unlikely to face too much downside markets the data will likely dampen expectations of possible rate hikes in the months ahead. My preferred way of playing possible AUD underperformance is via the NZD. AUD/NZD is likely to face plenty of resistance around the 1.3800 level and eventually as indicated by our quantitative models the currency pair is likely to move lower over coming weeks.

In sharp contrast to the RBNZ, the Bank of Korea hiked interest rates by 25bps in a further move to normalize policy. The decision was not much of a surprise and the statement indicated that more rate hikes should be expected. The KRW remains rangebound but the currency remains on path for further appreciation over coming months. The surprise trade deficit in China has weighed on Asian currencies in general but weakness is likely to be limited.

The Bank of England is the next central bank on tap today but is unlikely to hike rates despite the hawkish shift within the Monetary Policy Committee. A rate hike is moving closer but the Bank will likely wait until at least May before moving. Further details about today’s decision will as usual wait for the minutes in two weeks time. GBP looks vulnerable and whilst a rate move today is not expected the currency may lose ground over coming days against the background of a firmer USD.

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