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NZ dollar falls on soured business sentiment

Tuesday 2nd April 2019

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The New Zealand dollar fell as evidence of souring business sentiment provided further ammunition to the case for an interest rate cut.

The kiwi was trading at 67.76 US cents at 5pm in Wellington from 68.10 at 8am; the trade-weighted index was at 73.62 points from 73.86.

The Institute of Economic Research’s quarterly survey of business opinion found a net 27 percent of firms expect economic conditions to deteriorate over the coming months compared with 18 percent in the last survey.

"This QSBO is a fairly downbeat read of the economy... it was comprehensively negative," said Christina Leung, NZIER principal economist, in releasing the latest survey results.

Leung said the QSBO should give the central bank comfort in its view that the next move will likely be a rate cut. It provides "more justification for them to be cutting interest rates," she said. 

Last Wednesday, Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr surprised markets when he said the likely next move in his official cash rate will be down. That was a significant change from February when he said the OCR would probably be on hold well into 2020 and that that next move could be either up or down.

Orr was the latest in a long line of central bankers to turn dovish this year, most notably US Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell.

Investors had been on high alert for today’s statement from the Reserve Bank of Australia to see whether its governor, Philip Lowe, would follow that example, but he poured cold water on such hopes by using language very similar to the last time he reviewed his cash rate settings.

Lowe left his cash rate unchanged at 1.5 percent and said his central scenario is for underlying inflation of 2 percent this year and 2.25 percent next year – his target is 2.5 percent.

Although headline inflation would decline because of lower petrol prices, underlying inflation is expected to remain broadly stable.

“I wouldn’t call it very similar. I would call it almost identical” to Lowe’s previous statement, says Peter Cavanaugh, the senior client advisor at Bancorp Treasury Services.

“The RBA is so flat and neutral it makes the doldrums look like a tempest - which frustrates markets,” Cavanaugh says. “They don’t like things going nowhere.”

The New Zealand currency was at 95.57 Australian cents from 95.79.

Brexit woes continue in the UK with parliament there voting down all available options, including a “hard Brexit,” or leaving the European Union without any trade and other agreements as the revised April 12 deadline approaches.

The kiwi was trading at 51.84 British pence from 52.87 and at 60.48 euro cents from 60.74. It was at 75.47 Japanese yen from 75.82 and at 4.5529 Chinese yuan from 4.5696. 

The New Zealand two-year swap rate fell to 1.5997 percent from 1.6197 yesterday. The 10-year swap rate rose to 2.1800 percent from 2.1775 yesterday. It reached a record low of 2.02 percent last Thursday.


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