11 Jul 2013

Currency analyst says hedging behaviour changing

7:01 am on 11 July 2013

Bank of New Zealand currency strategist Mike Jones says a sharp drop in the New Zealand dollar against the US dollar since April is leading exporters and importers to change their hedging behaviour.

The New Zealand dollar peaked at 86.79 US cents in April, but fell as low as 76.85 cents earlier this month.

Mr Jones said until recently, exporters were usually buying cover whenever the currency fell. Now, though, more of them are prepared to run down their cover.

Mr Jones said with importers, the opposite is true: until recently they were mostly unhedged but now they've been scrambling to lock in cover.

He said there has been quite a sharp drop in the New Zealand dollar over the last couple of months and now there are the first signs that attitudes towards hedging against currency risks are changing in response to that drop in the kiwi.

"So exporters are showing signs that they are a little less inclined to top up on their levels of forward cover against the New Zealand dollar, meanwhile importers, for their part, are scrambling to take on cover as the New Zealand dollar falls."

Mr Jones said it's still early days, but the bank is monitoring it closely.

He says over the last few years importers have been comfortable because there has been a very high currency which has helped to keep the cost of imports low in New Zealand.

Mr Jones said importers have run quite low levels of hedging and at an aggregate level that's still the case, but there are signs that attitude is beginning to change and importers are taking on more cover insuring themselves against the risk that the New Zealand dollar continues to fall.