Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison expressed no discomfort with the current valuation of the Australian dollar this weekend.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Morrison said that Australian exporters had adapted to a currency that was now 9.3% higher against the US dollar ($0.7873) and nearly 4% higher against the Chinese yuan (¥ 5.1954) than it had been at the start of the year – the dollar and yuan being the currencies of Australia’s two largest trading partners.
The week ahead should be an interesting one for Asian financial markets, with the highlights being China’s 19th National Congress, the latest numbers for Chinese economic growth, the Bank of Korea’s monetary policy meeting and Japanese trade data.
Further to that, and to the events outlined below, investors should look with care to Federal Reserve speakers on Sunday and Wednesday (Asian time zones) and to Tuesday’s US data for industrial production, all of which may influence risk appetite and, of course, the dollar side of Asian FX pairs.
With the unsurprising exception of the Philippine peso – Asia’s worst performing currency of the year – Asia-Pac’s most actively traded currencies made gains against the US dollar on Tuesday.
Although limited, gains were somewhat easy to come by as risk appetite returned after the President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, held off on formally declaring the region’s independence from Spain, and by doing so, stepped back from what had looked like the precipice of a constitutional crisis in Europe’s fourth largest economy.
It’s been a tough twenty-four hours for the Australian dollar.
The “Aussie” was hammered after Thursday’s woeful retail sales data, which showed that sales declined in August by 0.6% – the biggest fall in four years. To add insult to injury, previously released data for July was revised down to -0.2%, from 0.0%.
The US dollar lost momentum towards the end of the week but gains between Monday and Wednesday were sufficient for it to end the week higher and, more importantly, to snap a six-month losing streak.
The US Dollar Index’s gain of 0.5% in September was hardly spectacular but its 2.3% reversal from a thirty-two-month low on September 8th is commendable.
Currencies in the Asia-Pacific region fell against the US dollar on Thursday morning after the Federal Reserve signaled that it would raise interest rates again this year and would begin shrinking its balance sheet in October. The Fed funds rate was left unchanged at its current range of 1–1.25%.
Although the majority of economists had expected this would be the Fed’s position, for some, doubt had crept in following hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
In retaliation to US sanctions, in its latest weekly report Venezuela’s oil ministry has published prices for the country’s petroleum products in Chinese yuan, rather than US dollars. One barrel of Venezuelan oil will now cost buyers CNY 306.26 – equivalent to USD 46.76.
Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, at 300 billion barrels.
So much for currency manipulation. The Chinese yuan surged against the US dollar on Thursday, forcing USD/CNY below 6.45 for the first time since December 2015. The dollar had fetched as many as 6.96 yuan in January.
The yuan has started September extremely brightly, picking up where August left off. With only five trading days of the month in the books, the yuan is already up 2.2%, exceeding August’s gain of 2.1%, which itself marked the yuan’s best monthly performance since China scrapped its fixed dollar peg in July 2005.