Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Australian Dollar Tumbles on RBA Cash Rate Cut

The Australian dollar tumbled by more than one and a half cents on the Reserve Bank of Australia's decision to cut the cash rate to a historic new low.

The local currency hit a fresh five-and-a-half year low to US76.57¢ on Tuesday afternoon, down from US78.16¢ just before the release. The reaction followed the central bank's decision to cut the cash rate by 25 basis points to 2.25 per cent after 18 months of holding the rate steady.

Despite the sharp fall in the Aussie dollar – nearly 20 per cent in the past six months – the Reserve Bank said the exchange rate remained high. 

"The Australian dollar has declined noticeably against a rising US dollar over recent months, though less so against a basket of currencies," the Reserve Bank said in its statement on monetary policy.

"It remains above most estimates of its fundamental value, particularly given the significant declines in key commodity prices. A lower exchange rate is likely to be needed to achieve balanced growth in the economy."

Market forecasts the exchange rate to continue to fall. On Commonwealth Bank of Australia figures, the local currency is expected to fall towards 73¢ by June this year, but the bank's senior currency strategist Elias Haddad said there was a risk the Australian dollar will fall even further and the bank will be revising its forecast.

"We expect a further downside movement here, not just against the US dollar but also on the crosses, due to narrowing interest rate, falling commodity prices and still unimpressive Chinese economic data," Mr Haddad said.

National Australia Bank will also be revising its forecast in light of Tuesday's tumble. Back in November last year the bank forecast the Australian dollar to hit US78¢ by the end of 2015. NAB global co-head of FX strategy Ray Attrill said the bank will be reviewing its forecast after the central bank releases its statement on monetary policy on Friday.

"The market already priced in the expectations of a rate cut, but the currency still lost. It shows the market is still prepared to sell," Mr Attrill said.

In an exclusive interview with The Australian Financial Review in December last year, Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens said an appropriate level for the Australian dollar would be US75¢.

Mr Attrill said the currency could be heading towards the US70¢ mark, given the fall in the commodity prices since December.

"You can argue, if US75¢ was about the right level in mid-December, and taking into account what's happened with commodity prices generally, maybe US70¢ is more appropriate," he said.

A batch of data fuelled RBA jitters earlier on Tuesday. The Australian dollar jumped by more than third of a cent to US78.30¢ after slightly better-than-expected economic data was released: building approvals slipped 3.3 per cent in December (better than the predictions of a 5 per cent slide) and trade deficit narrowed to $436 million in December, beating expectation of more than $850 million.

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