14 Sep 2015

Financial markets in for a testing week

11:48 am on 14 September 2015

Financial markets and investors face a testing time this week with June quarter current account and economic growth figures due out on Wednesday and Thursday respectively, and more significantly, the United States Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting.

The US Federal Reserve building as seen August 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / KAREN BLEIER

The US Federal Reserve building Photo: AFP

The economy is expected to pick up from the March quarter's 0.2 percent growth, when the economy was partly hit by drought.

A Reuters poll sees growth of 0.5 percent for the quarter, and an annual growth rate of 2.5 percent, compared with about 3 percent in the first quarter.

But many of the leading indicators since the end of June have been heading south, including business and consumer confidence.

ASB Bank senior economist Chris Tennant-Brown said the economy had slowed by recent standards.

"Construction activity has levelled off but remains high. We've had very strong migration flows. It'll be interesting to see if that continues to pan out if the economy's not generating as many jobs as it did a few quarters ago."

Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler speaking to media after the announcement.

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler is more optimistic than the market about the US Fed hiking its rates. Photo: RBNZ

An added ingredient is the Federal Reserve meeting later this week, which may see it raising interest rates from near zero for the first time in nearly a decade.

Mr Tennant-Brown is expecting the Fed to hold back, at least for now, due to the worries caused by China's slowing economy.

"We think they'll wait till December, and even when they start raising interest rates, I think the lessons from the rest of the world is that you don't need to raise them by very much," he said. "But it will still be a significant moment when they do. We just don't think it'll be this week."

Meanwhile, the New Zealand dollar may well find itself battered around in the wake of the US Federal Reserve's decision.

The dollar is currently trading at about 63 US cents.

Bank of New Zealand's currency strategist Raiko Shareef said the Kiwi will likely fall to six-year lows if the Fed raises rates, which financial markets are currently putting at around a one in four chance.

"I'd imagine we'd break 62 cents with relative ease, and from there on it would be actually very hard to pick a level that would stop. Sixty cents would be the big barrier."

Mr Shareef said if the Federal Reserve was seen to be starting a more aggressive-than-expected rate hike policy, then the New Zealand dollar could be headed to 58 US cents by the new year.

Wheeler is a little more optimistic than the market about the chances of a rate hike by the US Federal Reserve Bank.

Mr Wheeler won't be drawn on how much higher the Fed could raise its rates, but he said either way, it was a tough decision for the Fed as it weighed up a stronger US economy against the turbulence on international money markets.

"They will be conscious of not wanting to tighten rates at a time when there's global financial volatility," he said. "So I think a lot depends on what will happen in the lead up to that meeting, whether the markets are stable or not."