11 Jan 2013

Reserve Bank not expected to check surging dollar

9:12 pm on 11 January 2013

The Reserve Bank is not expected to take the New Zealand dollar's recent surge as a cue to intervene in the currency markets to bring it down.

That is despite the Kiwi reaching its highest point on a trade weighted basis since the central bank intervened in 2007.

Last year, the dollar was its highest on average against the US dollar since the currency was floated in 1985.

Overnight on Thursday the Kiwi, on a trade weighted basis, reached its highest level of US75.9 cents since the Reserve Bank sold several billion dollars of currency in July 2007 to try and lower its value.

The high was achieved after Chinese trade data showed that the world's second largest economy is in better shape than first thought. Comments by the head of the European Central Bank about the state of Europe's economy also boosted demand for the Kiwi.

Economists say the developments created demand for the currencies of countries such as New Zealand and Australia, which stand to get better prices for what they sell if world growth picks up.

Westpac currency strategist Imre Speizer says the New Zealand dollar is certainly high enough to warrant a repeat intervention - but the Reserve Bank is unlikely to do so because at present there is very little chance it would succeed.

"One of the main drivers of Kiwi strength at the moment is the strength in global sentiment and the weakness in the US dollar - those are factors outside your control.

"So you can intervene all you like, but global sentiment and US dollar weakness are not going to change as a result. Therefore, your intervention probably will not be successful."

Mr Speizer says if the Reserve Bank sold New Zealand dollars for foreign exchange and the Kiwi continued to climb, it could face large financial losses which would ultimately be borne by the taxpayer.

Exporters more exposed

BNZ currency strategist Mike Jones says the New Zealand dollar is a lot less volatile than usual, which presents exporters with fewer opportunities to use currency hedging.

Exporters using currency hedging contracts can convert foreign earnings back to the domestic currency at a more favourable rate if the dollar moves higher.

Mr Jones says the current very low levels of hedging mean export revenues could be hit harder in 2013 if the dollar continues to climb.