OANDA:NZDUSD   New Zealand Dollar / U.S. Dollar


1. Monetary Policy

The RBNZ underwhelmed some market participants who were looking for a 50bsp hike at their last policy meeting and the bank delivered a 25bsp hike as consensus was expecting. Even though the NZD took a plunge after the meeting, we don’t think markets are really giving NZD the upside it deserves after the Nov RBNZ decision. Not referring to the knee-jerk lower after the 25bsp hike of course as that was fully priced in and always ran the risk of underwhelming the bulls, but the outlook in the MPR justifies more NZD strength. The upgrades to the economic outlook between Aug and Nov were a lot more positive than expected, with growth
seen lower in 2022 but much higher in 2023, CPI seen higher throughout 2022 and 2023, Unemployment seen lower throughout the forecast horizon, and of course the big upgrade to the OCR which is now seen at 2.6% by 2024. The bank also brought forward their expectation of reaching the 2.0% neutral rate by 5 quarters. For now, incoming data will be very important and any new developments with the new Omicron variant will be closely watched. Any major deterioration can see markets pricing out some of the hikes that has been priced in and is a risk to the outlook. However, if data stays solid, the recent sell off in the NZD does seem at odds with the fundamental, policy and economic outlook.

2. Economic and health developments

Even though the NZ government has abandoned a covid-zero strategy, the recent rise in Omicron cases as well as well as the PM going into self-isolation is worth keeping on the radar. Turning to the econ data, the recent macro data, including Q4 CPI data has surpassed both market and RBNZ expectations. But markets have not been too bothered with the incoming data and have not given the NZD the upside it deserves. For now, based on the economic and policy outlook the NZD still seems undervalued at current prices, but we need to keep close track of the overall risk sentiment.

3. Global Risk Outlook

As a high-beta currency, the NZD usually benefits from overall positive risk sentiment as well as environments that benefit pro-cyclical assets. Thus, both short-term (immediate) and med-term (underlying) risk sentiment will always be a key consideration for the NZD.

4. CFTC Analysis

Positioning changes has been very limited for the NZD in the past few weeks and with the flush out of net-longs among Leveraged Funds in Dec we can see that positioning is close to neutral for large specs, asset managers and leveraged funds. We are still more patient on the NZD until we hear from the RBNZ this week.

5. The Week Ahead

It’s batter up for the RBNZ this week. The price action for the NZD has finally started to look more constructive after weeks and weeks of continuous downside, which was surprising given the hawkish outlook for the RBNZ as well as the solid economic outlook. After last week’s solid inflation expectations prints it was quite a surprise to see markets stick to expectations of a 25bsp hike, as usually that type of print should have seen markets at least opening up the possibility of a bigger move like 50bsp. Keep in mind that the last time the bank met for a policy decision was in November, so with solid CPI data, much higher house prices and inflation expectations data the bank could decide to make up for some lost time and push through a 50bsp hike. This past week has seen more constructive price action for the NZD though and might suggest that some participants are trying to pre-position for a 50bsp move and provides us with a clear scenario for the RBNZ meeting, where the question won’t be whether the bank hikes, but whether they hike in line with the 25bsp expected or whether they strut their stuff and show the Fed how it’s done by raising the OCR by another 0.50%. Whether they hike by 0.25% or 0.50%, at the current cash rate of 0.75% that would open up a very attractive carry attractiveness versus the low yielders, but as markets have been unwilling to give the NZD the upside it deserves, we’ll be approaching the currency with a lot of caution next week. The focus for the NZD like most risk sentiment assets is the geopolitical risks, where escalation between Russia and Ukraine is expected to be negative for risk sentiment (negative for the NZD) and any de-escalation is expected to be positive for risk sentiment (positive for the NZD).



1. Monetary Policy

The Jan FOMC decision was hawkish on multiple fronts. The statement signalled a March hike as expected, but Chair Powell portrayed a very hawkish tone. Even though Powell said they can’t predict the rate path with certainty, he stressed the economy is in much better shape compared to the 2015 cycle and that will have implications for the pace of hikes (more and faster). Furthermore, he explained that there is ‘quite a bit of room’ to raise rates without damaging employment, which suggests upside risks to the rate path. A big question going into the meeting was how concerned the Fed was about recent equity market volatility . But the Chair explained that markets and financial conditions are reflecting policy changes in advance and that in aggregate the measures they look at isn’t showing red lights. Thus, any ‘Fed Put’ is much further away and inflation is the Fed’s biggest concern right now. The Chair also didn’t rule out the possibility of a 50bsp hike in March or possibly hiking at every meeting this year, which was hawkish as it means the Fed wants optionality to move more aggressive if they need to. We didn’t get new info on the balance sheet and Powell reiterated that they’re contemplating a start of QT after hiking has begun and they’ll discuss this in coming meetings. Overall, the tone and language were a lot more hawkish than the Dec meeting and more hawkish than consensus was expecting.

2. Global & Domestic Economy

As the reserve currency, the USD’s global usage means it’s usually inversely correlated to the global economy and global trade. Thus, USD usually appreciates when growth & inflation slow (disinflation) and depreciates when growth & inflation accelerates (reflation). With expectations that growth and inflation will decelerate this year that should be a positive input for the USD. However, incoming data will also be important in relation to the ‘Fed Put’. There are many similarities between now and 4Q18, where the Fed were also tightening aggressively going into an economic slowdown. As long as growth data slows and the Fed stays aggressive that is a positive for the USD, but if it causes a dovish Fed pivot and lower rate repricing it would be a negative input for the USD.

3. CFTC Analysis

With the USD still sitting on the biggest net-long position for large specs and leveraged funds, the odds of mean reversion are always higher, especially with more than 6 hikes priced in for the Fed. However, if there is enough demand for safe havens due to further Russia/Ukraine challenges then positioning might not matter too much.

4. The Week Ahead

It’s a relatively quiet week for the US on the data front. Tuesday kicks off with Markit Flash PMI’s where focus will be on whether the recovery in Retail Sales and Industrial Production was also felt in the forward-looking and sentiment-based PMI’s. In terms of USD reaction, as both are growth measures, there is the chance the USD sees a similar inverse reaction like we’ve seen with other growth measures in recent weeks. On the inflation side we do have the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation (Core PCE ) on the schedule for Friday. As the Fed has tunnel vision for inflation right now the print will be important for us to watch. After a solid beat in CPI and PPI the market is skewed towards an upward surprise, which means it will arguably take a very sizable move above
maximum expectations to see a meaningful bullish reaction in the USD and US10Y , while it also means that a surprise miss, especially after CPI and PPI can have an outsized reaction to the downside for both. Fed speak will also be watched to see whether appetite for a 50bsp hike has grown. Keep in mind the Fed’s blackout period for the March meeting starts next week Friday (5 March), so any prep of a potential 50bsp move needs to be communicated clearly by the Fed before then in order to avoid jumping that type of surprise on markets when they don’t expect it. Risk sentiment will once again be a key potential driver for the USD given the heightened geopolitical risks around Russia and Ukraine. Any risk off flows from further fears of invasion or actual escalations should be supportive for the USD as the world’s reserve currency and a safe haven, while strong de-escalation is expected to be negative driver in the short-term.


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