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NZ Dollar Outlook: Kiwi may fall as Greek default looms

Monday 12th September 2011

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The New Zealand dollar may fall this week, with the unstable global economic conditions likely to see the Reserve Bank keep rates on hold, and fears that Greece is set to default on its debt payment putting pressure on growth-linked currencies.

All seven of the economists and market strategist surveyed by BusinessDesk saw the kiwi falling this week as investors continue to collapse their positions in risk assets in favour of safe haven currencies, as well as bonds and gold.

The kiwi, which recently traded at 81.67 U.S cents, may trade between a median range of 81.25 cents and 83.80 cents this week, according to the poll.

The key risk to currency markets this week is the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in Europe according to economists, amid fears that the fiscal catastrophe is spiraling beyond the control of policy makers.

Global equity markets closed sharply lower last week amid reports that Germany was shoring up its banks in the event that Greece defaults on its debt payments, a move that looks increasingly likely with yields on two year government bonds recently at 56%, and the 10-year yield at 22.5%.

"There's almost a certainty that Greece will default," said Derek Rankin, head of Rankin Treasury Advisory. "Compare Ireland to Greece - Ireland is meeting its austerity targets and interest rates have gone from 14% to 8%" on Irish 10-year government bonds.

Investor sentiment was further dented by the sudden resignation of Jurgen Stark, the top German official at the European Central Bank, reportedly over his opposition to the central bank's policy of buying euro zone bonds to support highly indebted countries.

"On its own Greece is small and even if it defaults European banks can handle that," said Khoon Goh, head of market economics and strategy at Bank of New Zealand. "But if it defaults the question will be who's next, and that turns something manageable into something far bigger. We don't know the knock-on effect. We're heading into the unknown."

Already some of the ripples were starting to be felt, with Moody's Investors Service expected to downgrade the credit rating of a number of private sector French banks with the debt crisis appearing to be spreading to core euro zone members, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

The kiwi will also get very little help from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand this week, when it releases its September monetary policy statement on Thursday, with Governor Alan Bollard expected to keep the 50 basis point emergency stimulus in place, with rates unchanged at 2.5%.

The bank had previously flagged that it was preparing to remove the stimulus provided the global economic outlook improved. That was in July, a month before world share markets plummeted after rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S. credit rating.

The market is currently betting that the New Zealand central bank will raise interest rates by 42 basis points over the next 12 months, 8 basis points lower than the emergency stimulus, according to Bloomberg.

"We see Bollard's rhetoric coming in more dovish, bringing into focus that we won't see rate increases until next year," said Alex Hill, manager of corporate FX at HiFX. "We're suggesting buyers of kiwi get in at these levels because a lot of exporters missed the last dip."

Currency markets will also be closely watching the data flows out of the U.S. towards the end of the week for signs of further deterioration in the world's biggest economy. Among the key items will be the consumer price index and industrial production numbers for August, as well as the New York and Philadelphia manufacturing surveys for September.

On the crosses the kiwi looks to languish on the lower side of its recent range against the Australian dollar, with a median range of 78 Australian cents and 80 cents according to the poll, with no tier one data on either side of the Tasman to give the currency a steer.


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