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Australian dollar - market update

The Australian dollar found its feet in the second week of March, ending a difficult period spanning back to late January. AUD strengthened to buy 0.785 US dollars, 0.638 euros and 83.8 yen.

AUD entered 2018 with verve and climbed to a 2 ½ year high against USD of 0.814 on January 26th, but things took a turn for the worse from then on as investors began to revise upwards their expectations for US interest rates and as Washington imposed US tariffs on imported steel and aluminium – tariffs that some said threatened to spark a global trade war. Given Australia’s open economy and reliance on commodity prices, threats to global trade are bearish for AUD. Post-tariffs, AUD/USD sank into the low 0.77s.

At the time of writing (March-12), useful technical resistance was waiting at 1.6 in EUR/AUD (equivalent to 0.625 in AUD/EUR) and 82.0 remained very solid support in AUD/JPY.

Forecasts: AUD volatility is set to dry up. A Reuters poll of analysts conducted in March produced a median estimate of 0.78 for AUD/USD for one-month and three-month horizons, and for year-end. This estimate marks little change from exchange rates in mid-March and is virtually identical to 2017’s year-end rate. The forecasts do at least represent an upward revision on those from recent months, most of which suggested a fall in AUD/USD this year to levels between 0.7 and 0.75.

United States dollar - market update

Chief among FX themes in 2017 was the dramatic weakness of the US dollar. Unfortunately for those holding US currency, 2018 has started in much the same way that 2017 ended.

In 2017, the US Dollar Index (DXY) recorded its worst annual performance since 2003, with a decline of nearly 10%. In the first seven weeks of 2018, the index managed to give up a further 4%. A DXY price of 88.62 on February 15th (the time of this report) took the dollar’s value back to 2014 levels. Of special note in early 2018 is USD/JPY, which fell nearly 6% by mid-February.

Importantly, the dollar’s trajectory has recently decoupled from that of US interest rates. Despite US yields climbing steadily in 2018, the dollar has sunk. Explanations for this came in February from Crédit Agricole, whose analyst said that dollar traders “remained uninspired by US economic prospects” and likely held the belief that higher interest rates would bring forward the end of the US’ current expansionary cycle; and from Standard Chartered, whose analyst said that traders were choosing to focus on the US’ ever-widening twin deficits, which were now “pretty nasty.”

“It’s easy to see the weak-dollar story persisting,” said ING in February. The bank has forecast a 15% rise in EUR/USD in 2018, to 1.3.

Entering the new year, analysts had been bearish the dollar. In December, a Societe Generale analyst said that the currency “looked expensive” given the more balanced outlook for global growth, and TD Securities said that the macro landscape favoured a “steady depreciation of the dollar in 2018.”

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