FX Trading focus: RBNZ surprises (some) with 75 basis point hike. USD scratching around for direction.
The market was about evenly split on whether the RBNZ would rock the boat with a largest.-ever rate hike overnight, which is what it delivered, taking the rate +75 bps to 4.25% and guiding rather hawkish, which helped to rise the peak rate expectation into next spring some 30 basis points toward 5.50%. This drove a bit more NZD strength, but as the currency has been on such a strong run lately, the shock value was minimal in market pricing. I suspect that while there may be a bit more to wring out of the situation here, we are very likely at peak hawkishness from the RBNZ in relative terms to other central banks. The RBNZ was one of the first G10 central banks to cease and desist with QE and begin hiking rates and the impact on NZ economic growth will mount aggressively in coming months. AUDNZD, for example, has also been helped lower not just by RBNZ hawkishness, but by the Aussie’s greater sensitive to the frustration over China’s now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t reopening process.
The US dollar continues to scratch around for direction, dipping yesterday on the ideal combination for USD bears, falling long US Treasury yields and strong risk sentiment. As discussed in my Monday update, the heavy hitting data doesn’t arrive until next week with the Friday jobs and earnings data the chief focus, followed by December 13 November US CPI release. These CPI releases have the market tied in knots – it is beginning to look a bit one-dimensional, and the market may need to broaden its focus on the implications of an incoming recession soon, but more incoming data needed to point that recession is perhaps necessary first. I don’t have my hopes up for any revelations from tonight’s FOMC Minutes release, although interesting to see if there are obvious signs of disagreement on how to guide for the slowdown in tightening, as well as whether “a few”, “some”, or even “several” Fed members make a fuss about financial conditions easing aggressively. As most of that easing has taken place after the FOMC meeting itself, it is doubtful.
Since the epic USD slide on the November 10 release of the softer-than-expected US October CPI data, the US dollar has done very little, while sterling has generally edged higher versus its most important peers on a further thaw in negative sentiment, even if the longer term outlook for the UK has been made that much more bleak by the latest budget announcement. Sterling and the US dollar will remain sensitive to new significant shifts in sentiment and in opposite directions. If we continue to see a melt-up inspired by mounting certainty that the Fed isn’t about to surprise the market any time soon and incoming data allows the market to indulge in soft-landing hopes for now (insufficiently strong data to raise inflation fears), GBPUSD may be able to drift back to 1.2000 and possibly even to the 200-day moving average above 1.2200 or even the major pivot highs into 1.2250+ from early August (!). On the flip-side, oncoming recession concerns are likely to only rise from here, which in past market cycles will eventually lead to a deterioration in financial conditions (currently close to the easiest they have been since the before the Fed started hiking in 75 basis point increments back in June) and weaker risk sentiment. The weather could also turn colder and remind investors of Europe’s energy predicament, a constant concern in the background. But it will take a lot of cable selling to suggest weakness – effectively, we would need to take out most of the move down to 1.1500 to reverse the November 10 move in USD weakness.