FUNDAMENTAL BIAS: BULLISH
1. Developments surrounding the global risk outlook.
As a high-beta currency, NZD has benefited from the market’s improving risk outlook over recent months as participants moved out of safehavens and into riskier, higher-yielding assets. As a pro-cyclical currency, the NZD enjoyed upside alongside other cyclical assets going into what majority of market participants think was an early post-recession recovery phase. As long as expectations for the global economy remains positive the overall positive outlook for risk sentiment should be supportive for the NZD in the med-term , but the recent short-term jitters and risk off flows once again showed us why risk sentiment is also a very important short-term driver for the currency.
New Zealand’s Zero Covid strategy caused quite the rigmarole for the NZD this week as market participants were forced to unwind some of their very aggressive expectations for rate hikes going into the meeting. The unwind was so aggressive that OIS prices dropped from a 100% chance of a hike to just above 50% at some stage. The RBNZ chose to leave rates unchanged, but despite the virus escalation they offered a much more optimistic tone compared to their prior meeting by updating their rate path projections to show 7 projected hikes between Dec 2021 and H1 2023 (bringing the OCR to 2.0%). This was even more aggressive than the already aggressive bets heading into the meeting before the covid news hit the wires. The Governor also later explained that they need to continue to move on policy and cannot wait for uncertainty as they have a lot of work to do to get back to the neutral rate of 2.0%. Also, when asked about Oct Governor Orr said the meeting is live, but also acknowledged that they’ve made it very clear their next move is likely a hike so they can afford to wait. Thus, with the upgraded rate path the med-term outlook remains intact for the NZD. Last week we saw very hawkish comments from RBNZ’s Hawkesby who stated that the bank’s decision not to hike rates last week was mostly to do with optics and not due to perceived risks, and also explained that the bank contemplated hiking rates by 50 basis points, confirming the bank’s hawkish tone and placing the RBNZ once again miles ahead of any other major central banks in terms of policy normalization and tightening.
3. The country’s economic and health developments
The main focus right now will be on how quickly the New Zealand government can get the virus situation under control. We’ve already heard some good news on Thursday reporting that the government has been able to trace the source of the Delta case and should be able to get the situation under control. This will be a key factor to watch for the NZD in the next few sessions.
4. CFTC Analysis
Latest CFTC data for the NZD (updated until 17 August) showed a positioning change of -127 with a net non-commercial position of -362. Positioning data was very interesting for the NZD, as it didn’t show any meaningful drop in the NZD after the flush lower as markets repriced their aggressive rate hike bets going into the RBNZ meeting. With the overall optimistic rate path, the bias for the currency remains unchanged, and with positioning at neutral the current spot levels for the NZD still looks attractive.
FUNDAMENTAL BIAS: BEARISH
1. Developments surrounding the global risk outlook.
As a safe-haven currency, the market’s risk outlook is the primary driver for the CHF. Swiss economic data rarely proves market moving; and although SNB intervention can have a substantial impact on CHF, its impact tends to be relatively short-lived. Additionally, the SNB are unlikely to adjust policy anytime soon, given their overall tone and a preference for being behind the ECB in terms of policy decisions. The market’s overall risk tone is improving with coronavirus vaccines being rolled out as well as the unprecedented amount of accommodation and fiscal support from governments. Of course, risks remain as many countries are now battling third waves of the virus. As such, there is still a degree of uncertainty and risks to the overall risk outlook which could prove supportive for the CHF should negative factors for the global economy develop; however, on balance the overall risk outlook is continuing to improve and barring any major meltdowns in risk assets the bias for the CHF remains .
Despite the negative drivers, the CHF has remained surprisingly strong over the past couple of weeks. This divergence from the fundamental outlook doesn’t make much sense, but the CHF often has a mind of its own and can often move in opposite directions from what short-term sentiment or its fundamental outlook suggests, thus be careful when trading the CHF and always keep the possibility of SNB intervention in mind. In a recent note ING investment provided their rationale for the recent strength in the CHF and explained that the lower in Switzerland compared to the EU means the real trade-weighted CHF is actually trading too cheap. Furthermore, the ECB’s bond buying has meant that their is expanding more rapidly compared to that of the SNB, and without any meaningful FX intervention the CHF runs the risk of slowly creeping higher, especially versus the EUR.
2. CFTC Analysis
Latest CFTC data for the CHF (updated until 17 August) showed a positioning change of -1543 with a net non-commercial position of +4094. The CHF positioning continued to unwind some of its recent surprising strength over the past few weeks. The CHF still the third largest net-long positioning among the majors, which is at odds with the current fundamental outlook for the currency. At the current level of positioning, one has to argue that the CHF offers attractive levels to sell into, especially versus the NZD which will is expected to offer very attractive carry yield if the RBNZ moves ahead with their planned hike projections. However, there might have been idiosyncratic factors providing support for the CHF, and any drastic escalation in risk off tones could still continue to provide support for the safe-haven currency.