In case you’re wondering what’s keeping the Aussie in a sour mood recently, I’ve listed five reasons that might explain this behavior. Do you think this could go on for a while?
1. Weakness in Australia’s consumer sector
Based on the latest set of spending and wage growth data, it looks like Australian consumers have been going through a rough patch in the past couple of months. Retail sales dipped by 0.1% in February and fell by 0.3% in March, dragging its annual reading down to its weakest level in nearly four years.
This slowdown in spending is likely a result of dismal jobs data as the country’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate has refused to budge from its January 2016 low of 5.9%. Although labor force participation has ticked higher, it also goes to show that the economy is having a tough time absorbing the influx of new workers.
Meanwhile, higher inflationary pressure is making basic goods more expensive while wages appear to have hit a plateau, which explains why consumers aren’t going on shopping sprees lately. Even the trade balance revealed that imported consumption goods sank 10.05% lower, hinting that more downside in spending is eyed.
2. RBA still concerned about a property bubble
In their latest monetary policy statement, the RBA reiterated their concerns about the housing sector, citing that growth in housing debt has outpaced the growth in household incomes.
Policymakers also warned that an additional supply of apartments is expected in the eastern capital cities over the next couple of years, likely keeping a lid on rental income unless demand picks up considerably. The RBA noted that rent increases are at their slowest pace in decades but assured that new supervisory measures could help mitigate the risks in this sector.
3. Falling commodity prices
One of the biggest drags to the Aussie last week was the slump in commodities, particularly in iron ore and copper. As my buddy Pip Diddy mentioned in his weekly recap, the Aussie had actually been holding up well against its peers earlier in the week but eventually tanked when the iron ore tumble intensified during the latter part.
At that time, Chinese iron ore futures slipped by more than 7% on Thursday, chalking up its steepest single-day drop in five months. This followed a similarly sharp decline in Chinese steel futures on reports of slower demand from the construction industry combined with higher production.
Downside pressure on crude oil also influenced overall market appetite for commodities and commodity currencies for the most part of the week. Black Crack breached several support zones as investors focused on the slow reduction in stockpiles and expectations of higher output from the OPEC nations as their output deal is set to expire soon.
4. Signs of a slowdown in China
Several market analysts are pinning the blame on downbeat Chinese data released around the beginning of last week for starting the commodities carnage in the first place. The official manufacturing PMI dropped from 51.8 to 51.2 versus the projected dip to 51.7 while the non-manufacturing PMI fell from 55.1 to 54.0, both reflecting a slower pace of expansion.
Things got worse when the Caixin versions of the PMI readings were printed. The manufacturing component is down from 51.2 to 50.3 versus the projected improvement to 51.4 while the non-manufacturing reading slipped from 52.2 to 51.5 instead of climbing to the consensus at 52.6.
5. Fed on track to tighten again next month?
To add salt to the Aussie’s wounds, Fed rate hike expectations for June have been revived after the latest NFP release. The actual reading printed a larger than expected 211K in hiring and, even though the previous reports suffered downgrades, this didn’t seem to douse tightening speculations for the next FOMC decision.
If Yellen and her gang of policymakers push through with a 0.25% rate hike next month, higher borrowing costs could further dampen consumer spending and business investment. In turn, this could keep global demand for commodities in check, and export-driven economies like Australia could be the hardest hit.