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Australian dollar - market update

Against the US dollar, having climbed to a 28-month high above 0.81 in early September, the Australian dollar spent much of the next three months losing value. AUD fell roughly six cents by early December to 0.75 but fortunately was able to piggyback off an impressive year-end rally in commodities. The commodities-sensitive Australian currency rose steadily in the final three weeks of the year along with the price of oil, which breached $60 per barrel for the first time since 2015; copper, which had its best December in three decades; and iron ore, which remains Australia’s largest export and which rose to a 16-week high. AUD/USD ended the year up 8.4%.

In 2018/19, the “Aussie” is set for a double-digit fall to just 68 US cents – a level unseen since 2009 – according to Westpac. In a note to clients in December, Westpac cited the reduced attractiveness of Australian yields as its reason for pessimism. A decade ago the benchmark interest rate in Australia stood 300 basis points above that in the US. Following the Federal Reserve’s December increase in US rates, Australia’s long-held rate premium has now completely evaporated, reducing the attractiveness of AUD.

A lower AUD will please exporters and those at Australia’s central bank. Recent RBA statements have said that the currency’s appreciation in 2017 will “contribute to subdued price pressures in the economy” and will weigh on the “outlook for output and employment.”

Against the New Zealand dollar, AUD fell back from October's high of 1.129 to 1.1 by year-end for a 5.9% gain on the year.

United States dollar - market update

Chief among FX themes in 2017 was the dramatic weakness of the US dollar. The US Dollar Index’s fall in the last session of the year to 92.3 locked in an annual decline of 9.7% – the index’s worst performance since 2003. And worse is yet to come for the dollar in 2018, according to analysts.

President of Everbank, Chris Gaffney, said in December that he expected “more headwinds” for the US currency despite market expectations for at least two hikes in US interest rates in 2018.

Also in December, a Societe Generale analyst said: “With global growth becoming more balanced…the dollar looks expensive.”

TD Securities said that the macro landscape “should favour a steady depreciation of the dollar in 2018.”

With dollar weakness on the horizon, the most liquid of all dollar FX pairs, EUR/USD, is set to rise to 1.25 in the coming year, thinks UBS, from a Dec ’17 rate of 1.2.

ING sees EUR/USD even higher, at 1.3.

The dollar “will do best of all against the Japanese yen,” said UBS in December.

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