New Zealand Dollar Tumbles as Fitch Downgrades Credit Outlook to a 'Negative' (Euro Open)

The New Zealand Dollar fell sharply late into the overnight session as credit rating agency Fitch downgraded the smaller antipode’s long-term credit rating to “negative” and warned the country could fall into a “low growth trap”. A slew of earnings reports from top companies including Carrefour and SAP are likely to guide price action in the coming session.

Key Overnight Developments

• NZD Tumbles as Fitch Downgrades Credit Outlook to ‘Negative’
• New Zealand Consumer Prices Fall to Lowest in Nearly 2 Years
• NZ Manufacturing Continues to Stabilize as New Orders Gain
• Japanese Service Demand Unexpectedly Drops on Job Losses

Critical Levels

The Euro fell in overnight trading, losing as much as -0.3% to the US dollar. The British Pound followed suit, shedding -0.4% against the greenback to test as low as 1.6379.

Asia Session Highlights

New Zealand’s Consumer Price Index declined less than economists expected in the second quarter, with the annual inflation rate falling to 1.9%, the lowest since the three months ending September 2007. Forecasts were pointing to a 1.8% result ahead of the release. Transportation and transport supply costs led the drop, -6.6% and -9.5% from a year before. Lower fuel prices and cheaper airfares were likely behind the drop-off: gasoline prices fell 17% from a year before while the average cost of air travel tumbled 21% in the same period as companies slashed prices to entice consumers amid the global recession. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has said that they expect inflation to fall below the 1-3% target range this year but return to desirable levels by early 2010. RBNZ Governor Alan Bollard added this week that New Zealand is likely to recover faster than its main trading partners from the current downturn, boosting expectations that the central bank will begin raising interest rates sooner rather than later. Indeed, overnight index swaps now show the market is pricing in 79 basis points in tightening over the next 12 months, second only to the Federal Reserve that is seen hiking rates by 82bps over the same time frame.

Separately, the Business NZ Performance of Manufacturing measure rose to 46.2 in June from 43.1 in the previous month. The result suggests the sector continues to shrink, albeit at the slowest pace in 9 months. New Orders led the metric higher, expanding for the first time since April 2008. In annual percentage terms, new orders and output saw positive growth for the first time in at least 7 months. Manufacturing figures have been stabilizing in most industrial countries in recent months as producers adjust inventories to current demand levels; it remains to be seen if this process will translate into a sustainable recovery going forward.

Japan’s Tertiary Index surprised to the downside, showing service demand shrank -0.1% in May versus expectations for a 0.4% gain. It seems job losses are starting to catch up with the world’s second largest economy even as the effects of the government’s massive 25 trillion yen fiscal package continue to be digested. Consumption is likely to remain lackluster as the unemployment rate continues to climb, weighing on overall economic growth and holding back recovery from the worst Japanese recession since World War II. Yesterday, the Bank of Japan slashed its GDP growth forecast for the 2009 fiscal year and said consumer demand “remains generally weak.”

The New Zealand Dollar tumbled 50 pips in a mere 15 minutes late into Asian trading as Fitch cut its long-term credit outlook for the smaller antipodean nation to “negative” from “stable”. The ratings agency expressed concern over New Zealand’s medium-term growth outlook given its “persistently large current account deficit and rising foreign indebtedness”. Fitch warned that the government may need to implement a “stronger fiscal adjustment” after Prime Minister John Key cancelled tax cut plans on fears of the ballooning public deficit. Fitch Asia Pacific Director Ai Ling Ngiam said New Zealand could “fall into a low growth trap”, an allusion to Japan’s infamous “lost decade” of stagnant economic performance. Fitch added that the volatility of the New Zealand Dollar complicates the necessary adjustments, with the currency “more responsive to global financial conditions than to domestic economic fundamentals.”

Euro Session: What to Expect

The economic calendar looks tame in European hours, with the July edition of Switzerland’s ZEW Survey of analyst sentiment the only notably item on the docket. The metric rebounded sharply in June, registering the first positive reading in close to three years. The forward-looking bias of the survey’s respondents tends to see it lead actual trend changes in the exchange rate, however, so a meaningful near-term impact is unlikely barring a wild deviation from recent figures once the data crosses the wires.

On balance, forex price action is likely to fall in with risk trends once again as earnings season continues, with notable reports due from: Carrefour SA, Europe’s largest retailer; Novartis AG, Europe’s second-largest pharmaceutical firm; Accor SA, Europe’s top hotel company; and SAP AG, the world’s biggest computer services provider.

Written by Ilya Spivak, Currency Analyst
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Forex Turnover

Forex Turnover
Main foreign exchange market turnover, 1988 - 2007, measured in billions of USD.
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