Thursday, March 12, 2015

Australian dollar lowest since May 2009 but RBA says not low enough

In long-awaited good news for local exporters, the Australian dollar has hit its lowest level since the depths of the global financial crisis.

Now markets are betting on how low the dollar could go as the softer currency starts working its way through the economy.

Listen to my report from this morning's edition of AM.

Earlier this morning the dollar went as low as 75.6 US cents - the lowest point since May 2009 in the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse.

The lower dollar represents a welcome shift for the Australian economy after peaking at more than 110 US cents in August 2011 when Australia was riding the wave of the mining boom.

While the surging dollar was great news for anyone travelling overseas - especially to the United States -   it was crunching local exporters.

Many smaller players went to wall and big local manufacturers like Ford, Holden and Toyota are now moving offshore citing the high dollar as one factor.

But now, the tables are turning with the dollar lower in part because of good economic news in the US is fuelling a resurgent greenback.

Yesterday, Reserve Bank assistant governor Chris Kent noted that exports of services like tourism and education are bouncing back and in terms of income, they're overtaking exports of iron ore which is now below 58 US dollar a tonne this morning.

Over the past year, the RBA has cited 75 US cents as an approximate target for the Australian dollar but speaking in Hobart yesterday, Chris Kent sent signalled that the dollar might need to go much lower to provide maximum relief for exporters.

Economists remain focussed on when the Reserve Bank might cut the cash rate again to put downwards pressure on the Australian dollar.

A key focus will be on official employment figures from the Bureau of Statistic for February to be released this morning.

Most economists think the jobless rate for February will remain steady at around 6.4 percent with some predicting a slight fall to 6.3 percent.

However while the unemployment figure remains in that vicinity still the RBA has good reason to be be nervous especially with predictions that it could peak later this year at 6.75 percent.

"The Australian dollar has depreciated by nearly 20 percent on a trade weighted basis  since its peak in mid 2013 and is starting to play a role in helping the economy to adjust," Dr Kent said.

 "While the depreciation seen to date will be helpful it's still our assessment that our exchange still remains relatively high given the state of our overall economy."

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