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Key Global Developments And Financial Markets

Data Flash (New Zealand)

November 2001 in Review


November began in a positive fashion for fixed income markets with the Fed's 50bp rate cut on 6 November, the third since the terrorist attacks, boosting sentiment. The ECB also helped with its surprise 50bp rate cut a few days later. However, sentiment went into sharp reverse over the next fortnight, as the collapse of the Taliban, a strong rebound in US October retail sales, lower oil prices and long positioning triggered a dramatic rise in interest rates. The Eurodollar strip moved to price in an early reversal in Fed policy - at one point, close to 200bps of tightening was priced for 2002 - while 10Y USTs also gave up considerable ground, rising to more than 5% (or more than 80bps from their yield low). In the final week, weaker than expected economic data (especially consumer confidence and jobless claims) and dovish comments from Fed officials led to a rally that saw the 10Y yield fall back to 4.75%. Outside the US, data has remained poor. Europe is still deteriorating - the Ifo fell again to an 8 year low and Germany was confirmed as being in `mini recession'. Japanese IP has fallen for 13 months in a row and the unemployment rate has risen to 5.4%. Meanwhile, in a number of Asian economies GDP is falling in nominal terms. And in recent days, the market has begun to digest the implications of the collapse of Enron. At the very least, this does not appear to be an environment in which central banks will want to take back rate cuts anytime soon.

Compared to the volatility of interest rate markets, currency movements were "relatively" subdued over the course of November. The general theme continues to be one of USD strength - perhaps a surprising outcome given the tone of the data. Yet the market seems to be firmly betting on a strong US recovery, while the growth outlook for Europe and Japan in 2002 does not appear as favourable. Equity markets continued the recovery from the attacks in September that was evident last month. US indices are above their pre-11 September levels, with the Dow almost 20% above its low point on 21 September and thus close to qualifying as a "bull" market.


The key local data releases and events were:

ANZ Commodity Prices (Oct) - 2 Nov: ? The foreign currency price of New Zealand's commodity exports fell 2.4% mom to be 5% off their May high. An even sharper fall is expected over coming months.

Quarterly Employment Survey (Q3) - 5 Nov: ? Private sector ordinary time wage rates rose 0.8% qoq in Q3, below the market's expectation of 1.0% qoq. Employment and hours paid data showed only modest growth. The market read this release as being consistent with a 50bps rate cut by the RBNZ on 14 November.

Motor Vehicle Registrations (Oct) - 6 Nov: Total registrations rose 1.4% mom. New vehicle registrations rose 1.5% mom but remained lower than a year earlier. Used car registrations rose 1.2% mom to be up 20% yoy.

Household Labour Force Survey (Q3) - 8 Nov: Despite a 0.3% qoq fall in full-time employment, overall employment rose 0.3% qoq while the number of hours worked rose by 0.1% qoq. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.2%. This result confirmed suspicions that the economy had come off the boil after a strong H1.

ANZ Job Ads (Oct) - 9 Nov: ? The number of job advertisements decreased by 3.0% mom in October - the third consecutive monthly decline. The number of advertisements in October was 4.4% lower than a year earlier and 7.9% below the record high recorded in July.

Retail Trade ?(Sep and Q3) - 9 Nov: Total nominal retail sales rose 0.7% mom in September, helped by a large rise in food prices. The volume of sales in Q3 rose 0.6% qoq - in line with market expectations. However, excluding motor vehicle sales and services, growth was a more modest 0.2% qoq.

Colmar Brunton Consumer Confidence ?(Nov) - 9 Nov: Confidence improved from -10 to -4 in headline terms. However, after adjusting for seasonal effects, confidence declined from 0 to -8.

Food Price Index (Oct) - 13 Nov: The FPI rose 0.2% mom to be 7.7% higher than a year earlier.

RBNZ Monetary Policy Statement and OCR Review - 14 Nov: As expected by market and analysts alike, the RBNZ cut its OCR by 50bps to 4.75%. The RBNZ indicated that the policy decision encompassed a weaker scenario for output and inflation than portrayed in the accompanying MPS, thus suggesting that the hurdle for a further rate is a little higher than would usually be the case.

REINZ House Sales (Oct) - 15 Nov: The number of house sales rose 5% mom to be 36% higher than a year earlier (although only 3% above its 10Y average). The median price rose to $179,000 - a rise of 2% yoy.

Capital Goods Price Index (Q3) - 20 Nov: Rose 0.3% qoq/3.0% yoy. This quarter there was only minimal inflation in the construction sector while plant and machinery and transport prices recorded no price change at all.

External Migration (Oct) - 21 Oct: A net inflow of 2,860 migrants was recorded in October. This was the strongest inflow since mid 1995 and moved the annual inflow into positive territory for the first time since 1998. Tourist arrivals declined 8.0% mom following a 9.2% mom decline in September to be 3% lower than a year earlier - a sharp contrast with the 10-15% yoy growth rates achieved prior to 11 September.

QVNZ House Price Index (Q3) - 26 Nov: House prices rose 0.3% qoq to be 0.7% higher than a year earlier. Building Consents (Oct) - 27 Nov: Consents maintained their recent sawtooth pattern rising 11.7% mom following an 8.9% mom decline in September. The solid trend in non-residential consents remained in place, helped by public sector works.

NBNZ Business Survey (Oct) - 27 Nov: The November survey, taken before the RBNZ's easing, suggested that business confidence had broadly stabilised, rising to -18% from -19% last month. However, once seasonal factors are taken into account, we estimate that confidence declined by 10pps. Firms remain much more upbeat about their own trading prospects. Pricing intentions moderated to a level consistent with inflation of 2% yoy.

Overseas Merchandise Trade ?(Oct) - 28 Nov: A preliminary deficit of NZD267m was reported for the month of October - the market had expected a zero balance. The surprise was due to weaker than expected exports and higher than expected imports, the latter largely due to imported aircraft and a surge in motor vehicle imports.

Producers Price Index (Q3) - 30 Nov: The inputs index rose 2.0% qoq while the outputs index rose 1.4% qoq. Both indexes were influenced by a strong rise in agricultural commodity prices and the impact of the mid-winter electricity crisis.

Wholesale Trade Survey (Q3) - 30 Nov: The volume of wholesale sales declined 0.6% qoq in Q3, continuing the run of data suggesting that Q3 GDP will be much weaker than the 2.3% cumulative growth achieved during H1 2001.


Global influences were again the key drivers of the New Zealand market this month. In the debt market, the RBNZ delivered the 50bps cut that was priced into the market. After initially pricing out any further easing following the mid-month sell-off in the US, by the close of the month, the New Zealand market was again pricing around a 50% chance of a further 25bps cut at the March 2002 MPS. At the long end, the sell-off in the US market led the 10Y NZGB to close the month 28bps higher in yield - a relatively good performance, that saw the NZ/US spread contract by over 20bps. The New Zealand curve steepened between 90 days and 3 years and flattened slightly between 3 years and 10 years. The NZD traded in a tight range during the month, closing close to its opening level. Ground lost against the AUD was made back against the Euro and Yen leaving the TWI little changed. In line with global trends, the local equity market had a good month, ending up 5.5% on its opening level.


National, the major opposition party, gained a little ground on the Government this month. The latest Colmar-Brunton poll, perhaps the most widely followed, showed Labour down 2pp to 44% support, National up 1pp to 40%, Alliance up 2pp to 4%, ACT unchanged on 3%, the Greens unchanged on 5% and NZ First down 2pp to 2%.

Darren Gibbs, Senior Economist

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