Roger J Kerr says some positive economic data this week could see an end to the almost panic selling of the NZ dollar witnessed in the face of the coronavirus scare

Roger J Kerr says some positive economic data this week could see an end to the almost panic selling of the NZ dollar witnessed in the face of the coronavirus scare
PRETTY BUT DANGEROUS: Beware the black swan (market talk for an unexpected and unpredictable event - IE coronavirus). The New Zealand dollar was hit hard by the global volatility last week.

A “black swan” global risk event in the form of the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic has hit the Kiwi dollar very hard over this last week.

The NZD/USD rate has tumbled from above 0.6600 to 0.6460 as international investors revert to a “risk-off” mode and exit commodity and growth currencies like the AUD and NZD.

Businesspeople around the world, along with financial/investment market participants, are currently adopting a wait and see approach as to how this health crisis adversely impacts business decision making, trade flows, consumer spending and thus economic growth.

Risk events that damage the global economy are always negative for the Kiwi dollar.

The coronavirus situation is arguably doubly negative in today’s trading environment for the Kiwi and Aussie dollars as our economies are now so heavily dependent on the Chinese economy for investment and imports/exports.

As factory output in China slows up (due to closures and travel restrictions), the adverse economic fall-out has started and it is not positive.

It remains to be seen if the FX markets have over-reacted

The reaction by forex markets over this last week is understandable, the question is whether the NZD/USD rate continues to fall if the virus continues to spread across the world?

In some respects, the FX market immediately priced-in the worst-case scenario and further selling does not occur unless the events later unfold as being worse than the original expectation.

It is too early to judge whether the 1.5% depreciation in the Kiwi dollar over the last seven days has fully priced-in the full economic impact of the coronavirus or not.

Market commentators are making comparisons to the SARS virus event in March 2003 as a benchmark to how economies, share markets and currencies are impacted.

In March 2003 the NZD/USD exchange rate was trading at 0.5400 and by December 2003 the Kiwi dollar had appreciated to 0.7000 with no signs of the SARS risk event causing a sell-off in the currency at any stage.

Today’s situation is considerably different in that the Chinese economy as a proportion of the total global economy is now fourfold the 2003 level.

Therefore, if the Chinese economic sneezes there are far more ramifications for its trading partners.

On the other hand, the Chinese authorities have acted much quicker to contain and quarantine the virus than what occurred in 2003.

Australian hard commodity prices and New Zealand soft commodity prices have fallen over this last week as supply chains in China are disrupted and demand will be less.

Exporters advised to take hedging advantage from the unexpected sell-off

The coronavirus pandemic certainly upsets the strong NZ dollar recovery from below 0.6300 to above 0.6700 over recent months.

It comes at a time when very positive local factors for the currency, such as high export prices, government fiscal expansion (infrastructure spend-up) and low mortgage interest rates, would normally be pushing the Kiwi higher (all other things being equal).

The view of this column remains the same as it was for much of the second half of 2019, a value below 0.6500 has the Kiwi dollar undervalued based on its economic fundamentals, no matter what has caused the depreciation.

Local exporters should be taking advantage of this fortuitous and unexpected dip in the Kiwi dollar to cement-in attractive currency hedging levels.

Such decisions need to be based on an assumption that the coronavirus will be contained and controlled sooner or later.

The two factors that caused the NZ dollar depreciation to below 0.6300 last year, being the unnecessary 0.50% interest rate cut by the RBNZ and the trade wars, both proved to be not long-lasting or imparting permanent damage to the NZ economy and currency.

Similar analysis is justified with the current coronavirus “risk-off”, it is only a matter of time before the threat to the global economy starts to subside and markets restore their confidence.

We do not know the exact timing of when the current negative sentiment will reduce, however inevitably it does, and the Kiwi has plenty of room to recover.

The US dollar fails to make gains on the coronavirus crisis

What is instructive in the global foreign exchange markets over this past week is the fact the US dollar itself has not strengthened alongside other safe-haven investment flows into the Yen, Swiss France, US Treasury Bonds and gold.

The EUR/USD rate has returned to the mid-point of $1.1100 of its recent $1.1000 to $1.1200 trading range.

The central view remains that the US dollar will weaken against all currencies in 2020 based on relatively looser monetary policy settings and the massive expansion in the US internal budget deficit. President Donald Trump seems to want to provide further tax cuts to help his November re-election chances, which if announced will only add to the budget deficit (extending it to greater than 7% of GDP).

Positive NZ economic data could stop the rot

Looking ahead this week, there is a reasonable chance that positive local economic data will stabilise the Kiwi dollar and prevent further falls.

Whole milk powder prices are expected to record another 1.00% increase at the GDT auction Tuesday night. December quarter’s employment increase is forecast to be 0.40% which will reduce the unemployment rate to 4.1%.

A jobs number above +0.40% should prompt a slight rebound in the NZD/USD exchange rate. On Friday night US Non-farm Payrolls employment increase less than the 148,000-consensus forecast would be negative for the US dollar.

In summary, it appears to me that the Kiwi dollar has been caught in the backwash of global sentiment against anything connected to China.

We have largely followed the Aussie dollar down without any differentiation as to the coronavirus impact on the two respective economies.

China still needs to import food/protein to feed its people, therefore it is hard to see how the New Zealand economy is going to be that negatively impacted.

The key indicator to watch is the Yuan/USD exchange rate, which is currently at 6.9100.

The Chinese monetary authorities will not allow a weaker Yuan in this health crisis, they will keep it stable.

Therefore, we should see an end to the almost panic selling of the Kiwi dollar witnessed this week.

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*Roger J Kerr is Executive Chairman of Barrington Treasury Services NZ Limited. He has written commentaries on the NZ dollar since 1981. 

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22 Comments

Almost panic selling of the Kiwi dollar? We are only down 1.5% with our largest and our most important trading partner is having a major health crisis. Think the Kiwi held up remarkably well last week in fact.

With the news over the weekend of Oz and NZ blocking travel between respectitive countries - will be very interesed to see the affect on Equities and FX this week.

From last weeks price action, market was very restrained in pricing in the affects of this crisis and have a feeling that unless something very positive comes out in the news - this week could be brutal in the markets, as the true affect of the virus becomes apparent.

What happens exactly to NZ Tourist and Education sector - if the Chinese are blocked for longer than 14 days?
If I recall, Tourism is the 2nd biggest earner for NZ now - and if Chinese are blocked - what happens next? Think how serious the affect is how the Govt highlighted that the blocking of Chinese travel will be reviewed every 48 hours - which probably reflects how nervious they are around the affects of the virus.

If this is strung out over more than 1 month timeline etc, would not be surprised to see Interest rate cuts and eventfully QE by year end - per 2007.

However if you are brave, could be that if you time it right - could be the perfect time to buy equities and the Kiwi.

1.5% could be painful, or even wipe you out, if playing games with leverage.

If you traded and a 1.5% move wiped you out, then you shouldn't be in the game.

Wait until this thing really kicks off. You ain't seen nothing yet.

The authorities know more than they are letting on. You don't take these measures for nothing.

let us see how much of the Chinese reserves they use up defending stock market this week.
Roger unfortunately, despite caveats and concessions to the power of China economically, is severely underestimating thee fact that NZ is tail end of the tail which is a large dog called China economic power.
This is just the beginning. The virus spread and impact has far to go. It is not just going to be washed away by market complacency as we have grown used to

If NZ escapes this plague without having a single case it will give NZ bragging rights, and this would give a fillip to NZ as a "safe" haven and enhance our reputation as a "clean" food supplier.
It could also enhance Labour's reputation for their efficient handling of the situation.

Labour brought in the China flight cancellation in the nick of time before the first case was reported here. It was a political move or else any lack of action would be seen by the public as them having blood on their hands. It will still be nothing short of a miracle if we do not get a single case of Coronavirus here in NZ.

'Beware the black swan (market talk for an unexpected and unpredictable event - IE coronavirus).'

This is not the correct definition: a Black Swan event is an unforeseeable event, ie outside the realm of human foresight.

This type of scenario is not unforeseen, but it is now interesting to see the back story been laid so if it does go pear shaped, certain people can hide behind the Black Swan moniker.

If they truly didn't have the foresight to think this might happen, that is to put it politely, it is just ignorance, and it could be called much worse.

And there is talk of a tourism industry bail-out - are we nuts?

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said the government is taking the outbreak seriously. He did not rule out a financial bail-out, but said decisions would be made when there was a clearer picture of the situation.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/408647/coronavirus-outbreak-tourism-...

The answer to your question is - YES. But there are so many other industry examples that confirm that.

Also don't forget there is a not so small group of people that see this decline in air travel as the new 'bad', as a good thing,

Everyone is a stringent capitalist and resenter of beneficiaries...until it's their turn for a handout.

A good capitalist would never turn down a handout. However, socialists rely on them

That's what folk tell themselves to navigate their hypocrisy, anyway.

Well as the Chinese Consul General re-enforced in the NZ Herald today, China is NZ's largest export destination, when he was suggesting NZ should not shut the boarder to friends from China. NZ must act quickly and try to stay safe, all residents will respect this. This virus is escalating, where it goes we dont know yet. NZ govt and agencies are totally silent on business MBIE and NZTE, Whats happening up there, MBIE and NZTE are taxpayer funded, how about some public comment.

Or what the Chinese Consul General said on RNZ this morning.
"I think the epidemic will certainly have a impact on the business between the two countries. China is New Zealand's largest trading partner ... as I said before trade should be based on a normal exchange on people. But this sudden travel ban will worsen the current situation. If Chinese economy suffers from international isolation, the New Zealand economy will also be in a loss."

I think the emphasis is on Will. As in China will make sure NZ pays a price for the decision. This guy doesn't speak for himself. He speaks for Beijing.

Seems like a silly thing for Beijing to have a temper tantrum about. They should get their disease control affairs in order and then let normal operations resume, not demand that trading partners put their own people's health at risk to prevent Beijing flouncing around.

Near insanity from Mr. Kerr. Looking that the exchange rate over the last two months, I see an orderly advance in December of last year, matched by an orderly retreat in January of this year. The magnitude of change for the two months are similar, with the recent decline being a bit smaller than the advance in December. If the January decline is panic selling, then the December advance should more properly be called panic buying???

Anyone that reads Rogers writings to gain insight is not likely to be better off after reading what he writes. According to Roger, anytime the NZD declines it was due to some outside influence, and anytime it advances, it was due to fundamental strength of the NZD. Yes, there is currently a flight to quality. The NZD has been declining prior to the issues of COV. Also, one has to think a wee bit about just what the phrase "flight to quality" means in this context...

Not in the slightest bit worried, did you see how quickly the purpose built hospitals have gone up? That gives me great confidence in the response.

maybe it's the same company that is trying to build this in NZ

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/property/119235508/more-questions-over-...

Lol beca and aurecon....

Actually more this:

the builder China Construction New Zealand, a subsidiary of one of the world's biggest contractors, Shanghai-based global giant China State Construction.

Got it, I was lol'ing at Beca and Aurecon apparently struggling with the building methodology employed by CSCNZ