The RBA minutes for the December meeting revealed that policymakers were more upbeat on the global and domestic economic outlook. While maintaining a natural monetary policy stance, the minutes contained some hawkish ingredients, suggesting that recent data on employment and inflation have made the members more confident. The key concerns remained subdued wage growth and household consumption.
As widely anticipated, ECB left the policy rates unchanged, with the main refinancing rate, the marginal lending rate and the deposit rate staying at 0%, 0.25% and -0.40% respectively. The focus of the meeting was on the updated economic projections and the press conference. For the former, accompanying the upbeat statement were upgrades of GDP growth and inflation forecasts. The staff has also unveiled the 2020 outlook for the first time. For the latter, little news revealed with President Mario Draghi refraining from discussing the internal division over the future of the QE program. He, however, reiterated that the monetary policy should remain accommodative as inflation has yet to be self-sustainable.
The BOE voted unanimously to leave the Bank rate unchanged at 0.5% in December, following a historic rate hike in the prior month. Policymakers also decided to leave the asset purchase program unchanged at 435B pound. Overshooting of inflation remains a key concern with the central bank putting its blame on British pound's weakness. Policymakers noted that recent macroeconomic data have been "mixed" and raised the concern that GDP growth might slow in 4Q17. The central bank also acknowledged the progress of Brexit negotiations, suggesting that it has helped support the pound. We expect the BOE would keep its powder dry at least for the first half of next year, unless abrupt changes in the growth and inflation developments.
While leaving the policy rates unchanged for another month and pledged to continue FX market intervention when needed, the SNB has turned less dovish in December. It has turned more upbeat over the economic recovery outlook and acknowledged the depreciation of Swiss franc and the euro and US dollar. the central bank revised modestly higher the inflation forecasts for this year and 2018, while leaving that for 2019 unchanged.
The greenback got dumped, as a result of a series events happened over the past day. Defeat of GOP Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race and the miss of the core CPI were followed by a final version of tax bill. The day culminated in the conclusion of the FOMC announcement, which saw a 25 bps rate hike as expected, but with two dissents. US dollar fell against major currencies with the DXY index losing -0.71% for the day. Treasuries firmed, sending yields higher with the 2-year and 10-year yields dropping -4 points and -5 points respectively.
SNB's FX reserve slipped to 738.17B franc, from a record high of 741.96B franc (revised from previous estimate of 741.32B franc), in November. The drop is in contrast with consensus of an increase to 745B franc and marks the first drop since June this year. Meanwhile, the sight deposit fell to 576.78B franc in the week ended December 1. Subsequent decline from the August peak has sent sight deposit to the lowest level since June 2017. The movements of both FX reserve and sight deposit have suggested that the SNB is not in a hurry to intervene with the recent weakness in Swiss franc. Separately, the country's unemployment rate stayed unchanged at 3% (seasonally adjusted) in November, compared with expectations of a rise to 3.1%. For the quarterly SNB meeting scheduled on December 14, we expect policymakers to maintain the status quo, i.e. keeping 3-month LIBOR target range unchanged, at between -1.25% and -0.25%, maintaining the interest rate on sight deposits with the SNB at -0.75% and reaffirming that the central bank is committed to intervene in the FX market as necessary. We believe the domestic economic developments since the September meeting have shown gradual improvements, leaving policymakers more room to wait and see.
The BOC left the policy rate unchanged at 1% in December. While acknowledging the strength in the employment situation, it warned of the slack in the labor market. While upgrading GDP growth forecast, it noted that it does not necessarily imply a narrower output gap. While admitting the policy rate would have to increase over time, it reiterated caution over any monetary decision. All in all, the central bank attempted to deliver a neutral to dovish message, so as not to cripple the recovery path – a lesson learnt after two consecutive rate hikes in July and September. Canadian dollar plunged after the announcement, with USDCAD jumping to as high as 1.2777, highest level in three days.
RBA left the cash rate unchanged at 1.5% in November, following the last reduction in August 2016. The accompanying statement contained little surprise. While staying confident over the employment situation, policymakers remained weary off the persistently soft inflation and wage growth. The RBA stance is largely unchanged from the previous meeting. We retain the view that the policy rate would stay unchanged for the entire 2018.
The greenback slumped as the FOMC minutes for the November meeting revealed that 'several' members were concerned that weak inflation would be persistent, rather than temporary. They highlighted the worries about a 'a diminished responsiveness of inflation to resource utilization'. Another important message suggested in the minutes is that a December rate hike is almost a done deal with 'many' members judging that it is 'warranted in the near term' if the macroeconomic data remain steady. Such opinion has outweighed the thought of 'a few 'members' that a rate hike should be delayed. We view the USD selloff might have been over-reacted. Note that the (core) PCE, the Fed’s preferred inflation barometer, has improved, while the October CPI, released after the November meeting, also picked up. We believe the majority of the FOMC still retain the view that weak inflation is transitory.
The RBA minutes for the November minutes delivered a dovish tone as policymakers expressed concerns over the wage growth outlook. This is consistent with the central bank's worry over household spending as indicated in the meeting statement (released earlier this month). We believe this has added further pressure to Aussie's recent weakness, sending AUDUSD to the lowest level in 5 months. The central bank kept its powder, leaving the cash rate unchanged at 1.5%, in November. We expect the monetary policy would stay unchanged at least until 1H18 and could extend to 2H18.
The talk of the day is undoubtedly the flattening of US yield curve with the spread between the 10-year and 2-year yields fell to 64 bps, the lowest level since November 2007 on Thursday. Meanwhile, the spread between 30-year and 5-year yields also dropped below 75 bps, the lowest in about 2 week. Flattening yield curve has raised concerns as this is probably also a reason of diminished risk appetite this week, apart from disappointing global macro dat. Textbook knowledge suggests a normal yield curve is upward-sloping as yields for longer-dated investments are higher than shorter-dated ones. An inverted yield curve (short-dated yields exceed those of long-dated) is usually a signal of upcoming economic recession. A flat yield curve is the transitory period from a normal to an inverted curve. However, this interpretation does not necessarily hold true. For instance, US' economic growth managed to avoid recession, despite a series of global economic crisis from 1995-2000, years after the sharp yield curve flattening from 1994 to 1995 (Second Chart).
While keeping the OCR unchanged at 1.75%, the tone of November RBNZ statement has turned slightly more hawkish than previous ones. The central bank upgraded inflation forecasts, while describing core inflation as 'subdued' and reiterating 'uncertainties' in the new government's policies. The growth outlook remained largely unchanged from August's, as weaker growth in the housing and construction sector would be offset by greater fiscal spending promised by the new government and higher terms of trade, thanks to NZD depreciation and the rise in oil prices. RBNZ slightly pushed ahead the rate hike schedule. However, given the minimal change, we believe this is rather a symbolic move. The central bank expects more material interest rate movements by 2020. We believe the monetary policy would stay unchanged for the rest of 2018.
As widely anticipated, RBA left the cash rate unchanged at 1.5% in November. As we await Friday' Statement of Monetary Policy, policymakers revealed at today' statement that the macroeconomic guidance has stayed largely unchanged. In short, policymakers remained upbeat about the growth outlook, although they expressed concerns over household spending and soft inflation. Despite recent weakness in the Australian dollar, RBA reiterated the warning that higher exchange rate would lead to slower growth and inflation. Given the overall unchanged tone of the central bank, we retain the view that RBA would keep the policy rate unchanged at least until 1H18.
BOE voted 7-2 to raise the Bank rate by +25 bps to 0.5%, the first time in over a decade, in November. Two deputy governors, Sir Jon Cunliffe and Sir Dave Ramsden, voted to leave borrowing costs unchanged. BOE voted unanimously to leave the asset purchase program unchanged at 435B pound. Governor Carney declined to comment when the unwinding would begin. Traders have begun to dump British pound ahead of the announcement on profit-taking. The selloff accelerates upon release of the meeting statement and the quarterly inflation report. The rate hike this month is to remediate excessive inflation which has sustainably overshot the +2% target for months.
As widely anticipated, the November FOMC meeting contained few changes from the previous one. The members left the target range of the Fed funds rate unchanged at 1-1.25%. One surprise came from the upgrade of the growth assessment to 'solid' for the first time since 2015, despite disruptions by hurricanes. Inflation stayed below the +2% target and the members acknowledged that core inflation 'remained soft'. However, the encouraging growth outlook and further decline in the unemployment rate suggest that a December rate hike remains on track.