As widely anticipated, RBNZ left the OCR unchanged at 1.75% in September Policymakers downgraded the domestic growth outlook and suggested that the accommodative monetary policy would stay for a “considerable period'. Thanks to the recent decline in New Zealand, driven by heightened political uncertainty, RBNZ tweaked its warning over currency strength. It noted that a lower exchange rate would "would help" raise tradables inflation. We expect RBNZ to keep the policy rate unchanged for the rest of the year, and likely through 2018.
The Fed finally made formal announcement that it would begin normalizing the balance sheet in October. As indicated in June, the process does not involve active selling of securities, but a passive run-off of its holdings. The policy rate also stayed unchanged at 1-1.25%. The overall tone of the statement and the press conference came in more hawkish than expected. Depsite downward revision in the core CPI for this year, the staff upgraded the economic growth outlook and downgraded the unemployment rate forecast. The median dot plot continued to project one more rate hike this year, followed by three more increases in 2018. As CME's 30-day Fed funds futures suggested, bets for a December hike markedly jumped to 73.4% from 57.7% in the prior day.
The RBA minutes for the September meeting contained little news. Four main areas of discussions include employment situation, Australian dollar, iron ore prices and the balance of household debt and low inflation. Policymakers acknowledged the improvement in the employment market, noting higher participation rate and steady unemployment rate. RBA appeared less worrisome about Aussie’s strength. By attributing the appreciation of the Australian dollar to USD’s weakness, it appears less likely that RBA would take actions to curb its strength. RBA expected iron ore prices to fall amidst new supply. As the biggest exporter of iron ores, Australian dollar has been affected by the movement in iron ore prices.
BOE sent a hawkish message at the September meeting, noting that the majority of the members agreed that some withdrawal of stimulus should be appropriate in coming months. The key reason for the upcoming tightening is strong inflation which the central bank expects to rise above +3% in October. The market interpreted this as a signal that the historically low interest rate would be raised soon. Sterling rallied to a one-year high against the US dollar and a two-month high against the euro after the announcement. The market has now priced in over 54% chance of a rate hike in December. On the monetary policy this month, the BOE voted 7-2 to leave the Bank rate unchanged at 0.25% and unanimously to keep the asset purchase at 435B pound.
Swiss franc's depreciation against Euro over the past few months has offered some reliefs to policymakers. At the quarterly SNB meeting in September, the members acknowledged the franc is not as overvalued as before. Yet, weak economic and inflation have led the members to remain cautious and maintain the monetary policy unchanged. SNB this month decided to keep the sight deposit rate unchanged at -0.75%, while the target range for the three-month Libor stayed at - –1.25% and –0.25%. The central bank also reiterated the pledge that it would intervene in the foreign exchange market if needed. But, SNB's sight deposit and FX reserve data indicate that less intervention has been adopted recently.
We expect the BOE to vote 7-2 to leave the Bank rate unchanged at 0.25% and the asset purchase at 435B pound. Despite overshooting of inflation, most members would remain cautious and cite slow economic growth and Brexit uncertainty as reasons for keeping the monetary policy accommodative. However, the MPC is expected to adopt a more hawkish tone and strengthen the warning of a weak sterling. The new deputy governor Dave Ramsden would be voting for the first time. He is perceived as a dove amidst his warning of dire consequences after Brexit. He is expected to vote to maintain the status quo in the first 9-member MPC meeting since May.
As widely anticipated, ECB left the policy rates unchanged in September. It also kept the QE program at a pace of 60B euro per month until end 2017, or longer if needed. At the press conference, President Mario Draghi acknowledged the improvement in the economic outlook but was cautious over inflation, warning that headline CPI could fall to the negative territory towards the end of the year. At the Q&A session of the press conference, Draghi admitted that the members began "preliminary" discussion on the adjustment of the QE program but affirmed that the "big labour market slack" is justified for the record low interest rates. On the updated economic projections, the staff upgraded the GDP growth forecasts but downgraded inflation outlooks. EURUSD broke above 1.2, attempting to retest the 2.5 year high made on August 29 after a brief pullback.
In a surprising move, BOC increased the policy rate by +25 bps to 1% in September, following a rate hike in July. Policymakers cited the better-than-expected economic developments as a key reason for the removal of stimuli from the market. However, they remained cautious over a number of issues including excess capacity, subdued inflation, geopolitical risks and the strength in Canadian dollar.
As widely anticipated, the RBA left the cash rate unchanged at 1.5%, historic low since August 2016. Policymakers remained confident over the economic outlook, but stayed cautious over the strength in property prices. Again, they warned that recent appreciation in Australian dollar would weigh on the outlook for growth and employment, and prolong soft inflation. . It appeared that the central bank would keep its policy rate unchanged at the current level for some time.
Despite a retreat after breaching the 1.2 level against US dollar, the euro has still gained almost +2% since the last ECB meeting. Indeed, the single currency is the best performer so far this year, up13% against the greenback and +8% against the pound, whilst the trade-weighted index has appreciated over 7% since 2Q17. A non-eventful Jackson Hole failed to dampened euro's rally. Rather, it led EURUSD to surge to as high as 1.2069, a level not seen since early 2015.
Recent weakness in Swiss franc against the euro has not yet boosted Switzerland's economic outlook in a meaningful way, evidenced by the disappointing KOF indicator and Credit Suisse (formerly conducted by ZEW) investor sentiment index for August. While, at the meeting on September 14, the SNB would certainly affirm the stance that the franc remains "overvalued" and the pledge the combat deflation, we are concerned that there would still be a long way to go for the country's economy to get back in shape, as the pass-through of exchange rate into inflation is subdued. Meanwhile, a recent study by the SNB suggests that its monetary policy would have to stay relatively more accommodative (than ECB's) for longer to push inflation higher. We believe this reinstates the central bank's commitment to leave the policy unchanged.
Recent comments from US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to have lifted market confidence that the government will eventually be able to raise the debt ceiling and avoid default. While our base case is that a debt ceiling would be suspended or raised, and the government would avoid a shutdown, we do not expect things to go smoothly and it would likely be a last-minute deal. US' politics has been under the spotlight since Donald Trump has become the president. At over 200 days in office, Trump's Russia scandal probably caught most attention, followed by the war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jongun. More recently, Trump dissolved several business advisory councils after resignations of a number of CEOs. On economic achievement, Trump has failed to pass the healthcare reform bill and was unable to kick start any pro-growth or tax policy. The government's debt issue is close watched and volatility of the stock markets could increase as we approach the deadline.
Speeches by ECB President Mario Draghi and Fed Chair Janet Yellen are the key focuses. The market is anticipating Draghi to give more hints on ECB's asset purchases tapering. However, an ECB spokesman indicated last week that Draghi would not deliver a new policy message, but focus on the symposium's theme of "Fostering a Dynamic Global Economy". We believe Draghi would refrain from sending more signals about the policy outlook this week as the ECB is still working on the new economic projections for the September meeting. It would be prudent to wait for the updated economic forecasts and make announcement thereafter.
ECB's July minutes voiced concerns over euro's strength. This is particularly important as the central bank is about to discuss tapering of the asset purchase program. Yet, the members generally agreed that "there was presently a continuing need for steady-handed and persistent monetary policy". The single currency instantly dropped to a 3-week low of 1.1661 against USD, 2-day low of 0.9061 against GBP and 4-day low of 1.1302 against CHF, before recovery.
The price actions in US dollar and Treasuries suggested that the market views the July FOMC minutes as a dovish one. The minutes revealed that policymakers were concerned that US inflation might stay below +2% longer than previously anticipated. On the other hand, it appears that an announcement on balance sheet policy is imminent. The market pricing of a rate hike in December ranges from 35-45%. It only expects less than two times of rate hike through end-2018, compared with four projected in the Fed’s dot plot. US dollar initially climbed higher upon release of the statement. Gains were, however, erased shortly with the DXY index ending the day -0.33% lower. Treasury prices strengthened, sending 2-year yields -3 points lower to 1.33% and 10-year yields -5 points to 2.23%.
Headline CPI in the UK surprisingly stayed unchanged at +2.6% y/y in July, compared with consensus of a renewed pick up to +2.7%. From a month ago, inflation contracted -0.1%, after a flat reading in June. Re-designated by the Statistics Authority on July 31, the consumer price index including owner occupiers' housing (CPIH) steadied at +2.6%. The price of motor fuel continued to fall and contributed to the biggest downward change from June to July. Upward contributions came from a range of goods and services, including clothing, household goods, gas and electricity, and food and non-alcoholic beverages. Core CPI stayed unchanged at +2.4%, missing market expectation of a rise to +2.5%.
RBA's minutes for the August meeting revealed that policymakers were optimistic over the global and domestic economies. However, they reiterated the warning of the strength of Australian dollar, noting that its appreciation would curb growth and inflation over time. The central bank signaled concerns over the housing market and household debt, while appeared more comfortable over the employment situation. AUDUSD recovered after the release of the minutes.
As expected, the RBNZ left the OCR unchanged at 1.75%. Governor Wheeler reiterated that the monetary policy would remain accommodative for some time. The staff projection continued to forecast the first rate hike to come in 2H19. They also revised lower the short term inflation outlook and intensified the warning that a lower currency is needed for growth. NZDUSD jumped to a 3-day high of 0.7371 after the announcement, but gains were erased afterwards.
The BOE left the Bank rate unchanged at 0.25%, the government bond purchases at 435B pound and corporate bond purchases at 10B pound. As we had anticipated, the members voted 6-2 to leave the interest rate unchanged with the newcomer Silvana Tenreyo supporting to maintain the status quo. Ian McCafferty and Michael Saunders continued to believe a +25 bps rate is needed. Sterling slumped after the announcement as the central bank downgraded the growth and wage forecasts. Governor Mark Carney warned that Brexit uncertainty is weighing on the country's economic outlook.
We expect BOE to leave the Bank rate unchanged at 0.25% and the asset purchase program at 435B pound at the upcoming meeting. The vote split might probably come in at 6-2 from 5-3 in June, as Silvana Tenreyro, successor of Kristin Forbes appears less hawkish and noted that the monetary policy decision would be data-dependent. Members favoring a rate hike were mainly hinged on the fact that inflation has been overshooting the central bank's target. However, there was a sign of slowdown on the consumer price level in June, offering room for policymakers to stand on the sideline amidst lackluster economic growth and wage, as well as uncertainty in Brexit negotiations.