NZD knocked down on lockdown from single Covid case
The New Zealand government has taken the extreme measure of locking down the entire nation for three days and the largest city Auckland and a nearby area for at least a full week due to the discovery of a single Covid case from “community” spread, i.e., not a traveler who was isolated before contact with the rest of the population. The traveler apparently was infectious as far back as last Thursday and had traveled a bit between Auckland and Coromandel some distance to the east and stopped in at least 23 locations. This was the first community spread case since February. The temptation previously might have been to think that New Zealand can quickly get on top of this outbreak as it has previously done with its extreme tracking and lockdown approach and its geographic isolation, but the Delta variant (not yet known whether this was a delta case) is a different beast, as recent experience elsewhere has shown, and NZ has been resting on its laurels with a total vaccination rate of only some 20%, the lowest of any advanced economy. The timing is impossibly difficult for NZD longs, which were sent through a very small exit overnight as we all ponder how the RBNZ treats this. Do they suspend any plans to hike until more is known (will take at least a few days to find whether/how many new cases are out there) or go ahead and hike and make the future course of policy contingent on the virus not impacting the economy beyond the shortest of time frames. I think it is bad optics to hike now and would expect a statement saying that the previous set of market expectations seemed appropriate, provided there is no extended lockdown and this outbreak quickly fades between now and well before the next meeting, but there are arguments in either direction – safe to say that the guidance will be secondary to the actual news in the coming days, even if there will be a further kneejerk on tonight’s announcement. Helmets on!
“Weak” US Empire manufacturing – this one is undeserving of the adjectives in the headlines, after the absurd and unsustainable all-time high of 43 (everything above 0 is an improvement) in July yielded to a reading still above 18, historically a quite positive reading. Remember that diffusion surveys are comparative. On that note, the more interesting bit of data in this survey was the “prices received” index throwing off a reading of 46, the fourth record high in five months and suggesting that producers are able to pass along higher prices to some degree (prices paid was an even higher 76.1, dipping slightly again after posting the highest ever 83.5 in May.
US Jul. Retail Sales up next today – and are a more easy-to-gauge measure of consumer confidence and activity on the ground than the various surveys, including the shocker of a preliminary University of Michigan sentiment reading on Friday. But keep in mind that the latter was for the first part of August, which brought with the mounting concern on the delta variant outbreak and the Afghanistan debacle – two issues which might – might! – fade quickly. In any case, a slight month-on-month dip in July Retail Sales is expected, which is still pretty respectable given the June surge in sales.
Table: FX Board of G10 and CNH trend evolution and strength
The trend evolution picture reflects what is written above: a significant surge in the JPY and a solidly established trend there in many crosses (see below) while the NZD has lost massive altitude over the last session and the CHF is showing a momentum shift in sympathy with the JPY move. The Aussie remains relatively weak after the RBA minutes underlined the central bank’s commitment to further measures should the Covid outbreaks cloud the outlook.