Other regional data and policy innovation has mostly been positive for the Asian region this week. The FedÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s surprise extension of its commitment not to raise US rates for another 18-monthÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s, until late 2014, Ã¢â‚¬Å“should be the key to medium-term developmentÃ¢â‚¬Â. Yen is expected to be the natural beneficiary of the latest dovish rhetoric by Bernanke and company and monetary easing by other G10 members. The lack of attractive yield opportunities complicates Japans current account recycling efforts. The stronger than expected Euro area flash PMIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s this month should be AsiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s strongest macro support (it suggests that the regions exports have Ã¢â‚¬Ëœbottomed outÃ¢â‚¬â„¢). Analysts historically use this indicator as a bellwether for Asian currency appreciation.
Below are some other highlights of the week:
- CNY: Chinese New Year of the Dragon begins.
- AUD: Because of the Chinese Holidays, markets down-under were vulnerable to illiquid pockets this week.
- AUD: The IMF has warned that Aussie banks might need Ã¢â‚¬Å“tougher capital requirements.Ã¢â‚¬Â
- JPY: It was no surprise that the BoJ cut growth forecasts at this weeks monetary meeting, while maintaining the policy rate (+0.05%) and leaving the QE program unchanged. Policy makers have revised down the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s growth outlook for 2011 (from +0.3%, y/y, to -0.4%) and 2012 (from +2.2%, y/y to +2.0%) attributing the slowdown to the overseas economies and the retroactive revision of GDP stats.
- JPY: Their inflation metrics remain unchanged, believing that the global financial markets, US balance sheet adjustments and price stability in the emerging economy, all represent risks to Japanese growth. What about the yen? ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a currency that is likely to continue to Ã¢â‚¬Å“benefit from policy convergence and risk aversion.Ã¢â‚¬Â
- INR: The RBI held the repo rate unchanged at +8.5% (as expected), however, they unexpectedly lowered the cash reserve ratio to +5.5% from +6.0% (ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first ease in nearly three-years). Analysts expect this to add approximately +INR320b into the economy.
- INR: The RBI also revised this years growth forecast lower to +7% from +7.6%.
- AUD: Australia headline CPI was flat in Q4 (forecasted for a +0.2%, q/q rise) due to a sharp fall in fruit prices. The RBAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s trimmed mean measure of CPI inflation was +0.6%, q/q, and the weighted median was +0.5%. Both are running at +2.6%, y/y, after some upward revisions to Q3 numbers. However, with core prices in the middle of RBA’s +2-3% target band suggests further easing is not required just yet. The market expects the RBA to cut rates +25bps because of Euro woes.
- JPY: Japan’s December’s trade deficit rose to -JPY567b, pushing the 2011 trade balance into a deficit of JPY2.5trn (the first annual trade deficit in 20-years). Analysts expect this trend to continue for 2012. Euro uncertainties and global central banks monetary easing will continue to make it hard for any current account surplus to be recycled offshore. With repatriation of overseas assets remaining strong, the currency should remain under pressure longer term.
- PHP: Philippine imports remained at a high, +$4.9b in November, pushing the trade deficit -$0.7b wider to -$1.6b. Remittances continue to support the PHP and a current account surplus. Expect policy makers to remain reluctant to allow their currency outperform in the region.
- SGD: Singapore CPI inflation was at +5.5%, y/y in December, in line with the consensus forecast. Inflation is expected to remain high through the next one to two quarters. This scenario would suggest that the MAS to maintain the SGD on its current mild appreciation path.
- FOMC: FX risk has rallied following the Fed’s shift to a more dovish policy stance. With US yields holding on to post meeting losses and pricing of tightening being pushed further out in the future has increased the appeal of EM FX.
- KWN: With EM Central Banks more active in reducing the appreciation of their own currencies, the BoK is supposedly restricting KRW appreciation to about five won per day.
- NZD: RBNZ remains on hold at +2.5%, as widely expected. No rate move is priced in until Q4.
- KRW: GDP growth slowed to +3.4%, y/y, in Q4 vs. +3.5%. The underlying details were soft, with domestic demand and investment continuing to be weak. Net export growth also slowed.
- SGD: In Singapore IP rose +12.6%, y/y, in December, much higher than the consensus forecast of 6.4%yoy. The MAS is expected to keep the SGD on an appreciating trend.
- KWN: Korea’s manufacturing business survey rallied +2pts to 81 in January, and still below the expansionary level of 100. Analysts expect the index to rise in line with the recovery in global PMIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s. This would suggest stronger export growth and support for the won.
- NZD: New Zealand recorded a trade surplus of +0.3b in December, this after four consecutives months in the red. This was achieved on the back of increased dairy exports. In December exports rose +13% while imports fell +1.6%. For 2011, the trade surplus was largely flat at around +1.1b. Expect further Kiwi appreciation to hurt exports. Governor Bollard at the RBNZ said he is comfortable with the current market pricing of no rates hike for the year ahead.