As the market had widely anticipated, BOC has increased the overnight rate target, for the first time in 7 years, to 0.75%, from the historical low of 0.5%. The Bank Rate and the deposit rate rose to 1% and 0.5% respectively. Policymakers acknowledged the improvement in macroeconomic data, noting that the central bank's confidence in its outlook for above-potential growth and the absorption of excess capacity in the economy had been improved. Although inflation has remained soft, BOC judged that it is temporary and would reach the target by the middle of 2018.
EURCHF recovered after declining over the past three weeks. Political uncertainty and diminished expectations of ECB's QE tapering has pressured the single currency and raised demand for safe-haven assets. Despite the selloff to as low as 1.0629 in February, EURCHF had then rebounded to a 3-month high of 1.0825 in mid-March, before settling at 1.068 at end-1Q17. This came in line with over forecast of 1.07 for the first quarter. Movement of USDCHF was, however, more volatile than we had anticipated. The currency pair indeed broke below 1, plunging to a 4.5-month low of 0.9812 on March 27 before returning to parity on March 31. We attribute the sharper-than-expected weakness in US dollar over the past quarter to the inability of Trump's administration. Indeed, the market has turned less optimistic over the president's pro-growth policy, after the withdrawal of the healthcare bill. However, the price movements in the first quarter do not alter our view that SNB has turned more tolerable to franc's appreciation, although FX intervention would continue should euro's selloff accelerate.
ECB left the monetary policy and the QE program unchanged in April. That is, the main refi rate, marginal lending rate and the depo rate stayed unchanged at 0%, 0.25% and -0.40%, respectively. Meanwhile, the asset purchase program would be continued at the pace of 60B euro per month from this month, through to the end of December 2017, or beyond, if necessary.
Investors viewed Fed Chair Janet Yellen's testimony before the Senate Banking Committee as modestly hawkish. As such, expectations for a March rate hike rose modestly while Treasury yields climbed higher. While reiterating that all meetings are 'live' for a rate hike, Yellen warned that waiting too long to remove accommodation would be unwise'. Meanwhile, she cautioned over the uncertainty over the economic policy under Donald Trump's administration. Yellen emphasized the Fed's monetary policy stance is not based on 'speculations' about fiscal policy. The economy's 'solid progress' is what is 'driving the policy decisions'.
The FOMC minutes for the September meeting anchored the Fed's stance to hike policy rate for one more time this year. While the views on economic growth developments remained broadly unchanged from previous meetings, the members appeared more concerned over the inflation outlook. The minutes included detailed discussions on the impacts hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Yet, they were expected to have limited impacts on US growth and inflation. The market has priced in almost 90% chance of a rate hike in December. The bet shows little change after the release of the minutes.
BOE voted unanimously (9-0) to leave the Bank rate unchanged at 0.25% and the asset purchases program at 435B pound for UK gilts and 10B pound for non-financial GBP investment-grade corporate bonds. The members revised the growth forecasts significantly higher but left the inflation outlook largely unchanged. The latter was mainly due to the judgment that the labor slack was more than previously expected. Despite stronger growth outlook, Governor Mark Carney warned of the uncertainty over Brexit, cautioning that "there will be twists and turns along the way". While he reiterated that "we can see scenarios in either direction" for policy, we expect BOE to leave the monetary policy and the QE program unchanged at least in the first half of the year.
We have got a more hawkish FOMC and BOE this week. For the former, policymakers raised the policy rate by +25 bps, as expected, and laid out detailed plans to unwind the balance sheet. For the latter, BOE left the Bank rate unchanged at a record low of 0.25%. Yet, the members' division on the monetary policy widened the most in 6 years with Michael Saunders and Ian McCafferty joining Kristin Forbes in support of a rate hike of +25 bps. The tug of war on interest rate differential results in higher volatility in GBPUSD. After BOE's announcement, GBPUSD erased earlier loss from an intra-day low of 1.2688 and rallied to 1.2795, before retreating again. The selloff of EURGBP widened with the pair plunging to a one-week low of 0.8721. ECB earlier this month refrained from talking about tapering and reaffirmed that it would extend QE purchases, if necessary.
The RBA minutes for the October meeting reaffirmed the market that the central bank is in no hurry to increase interest rates. Policymakers stressed that rate hikes, or other kinds of monetary policy normalization, in other major economies do not necessarily imply that the RBA would follow suit anytime soon. The RBA remained upbeat in the domestic economic outlook, staying confident in the employment market conditions. Yet, it was still weary of subdued inflation. As usual, the central bank continued to warn of the strength in Australian dollar.
The minutes for the June ECB meeting turned out more hawkish than expected, sending EURUSD to a 3-day high of 1.1397 and Europe's Stoxx 600 stock index to a 11-week low 378.45. The minutes unveiled that policymakers had discussed removing the guidance on the bond asset purchase program (QE), if necessary. Policymakers just shrugged off recent weakness in headline inflation as core inflation continued to climb higher.
As expected, RBA left the cash rate unchanged at 1.5% in March. Despite few changes in the monetary statement, policymakers appeared more upbeat on both the global and domestic economic outlook. The major change on RBA's view was on the housing market with the central bank now seeing the conditions 'strong' and prices 'rising briskly' in some markets. On the monetary front, RBA acknowledged further rate hike is coming in the US and 'there is no longer an expectation of additional monetary easing in other major economies'. With no explicit guidance on RBA's monetary policy outlook, we see it maintain a neutral bias with future rate decision dependent on incoming data.
BOC appeared more confident over the economic growth outlook, although it maintained the policy rate unchanged at 0.5% in April. Policymakers upgraded the GDP growth forecast for this year amidst strong housing market activities in the first quarter, but revised lower the figure for 2018. It also revised mildly higher the inflation outlook, though. The central bank cautioned over the uncertainty of trade relations with the US and stressed that material slack remained in Canada. On the monetary policy, Governor Stephen Poloz described the stance as 'decidedly neutral' as the members weighed the improved economic developments against the uncertain trade policy. We expect the policy rate to stay unchanged at 0.5% for the rest of the year. The loonie strengthened around than +0.5% Wednesday as Canadian economic outlook improved. Yet, the magnitude of the gain was mainly due to USD's weakness as US President Donald Trump complained that the greenback is too strong and reiterated his preference of low interest rate policy.