ETF Securities Research Blog

No bounce for the Aussie Dollar

Although the Australian economy set a record of not having a recession in 104 quarters – since 1992 – growth in Q1 2017 was the weakest in over seven years. With the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) remaining firmly in an accommodative policy stance, the downside risks for the Australian Dollar (AUD) are mounting in the near term.

Outside of the housing sector business investment is showing some signs of life, albeit from depressed levels. Additionally, company profits have rebounded strongly in recent quarters. The Chinese economy is stabilising and while a supportive influence, it is unlikely to be a significant catalyst for strong growth in the near-term.   Such business conditions should help bolster wage growth, but household incomes are likely to grind rather than shoot higher.

aud profits

Consumer balance sheets remain stretched as debt levels are climbing as house prices are surging. House prices have risen on average over 2% per quarter over the past three years. Despite an improving jobs market, wages grew just 1.8% in Q1 2017 from a year earlier, a record low rate. Such household dynamics have restricted housing affordability, particularly in the major state capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne. Lacklustre wage growth is also constraining the ability for households to save: the savings ratio is at the lowest level since the financial crisis, leaving little buffer in case of any economic shock. Of the countries that the Bank of International Settlements collects data for, only Denmark and the Netherlands have higher household debt service ratios than Australia. Nonetheless, it is important that concerns shouldn’t be overblown – the household debt service ratio is hovering below the longer term average and well below levels that existed during the financial crisis.

Meanwhile, inflation remains subdued and the RBA remains in ‘wait and see’ mode. The central bank is comfortable with a weak local currency, noting at its last monetary policy meeting that ‘The depreciation of the exchange rate since 2013 had also assisted the economy in its transition following the mining investment boom. An appreciating exchange rate would complicate this adjustment.’ We expect little upside for the AUD in the near-term and risks remain to the downside, with the US Federal Reserve becoming more aggressive in its rhetoric toward tighter policy.

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