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Australian dollar falls hand in hand with copper price

In a total surprise to the market last week data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed the unemployment rate in Australia fell to 6.1% in December, coming in well below most analysts’ estimates of 6.3% and giving some hope that Australia’s jobless rate is not spiraling out of control

Adding to the good news was the 37,400 new jobs created, well above expectations of 5,000 and unlike last month, most of the growth was in fulltime positions.

The solid result may ease some of the pressure on the Reserve Bank of Australia to cut interest rates at some stage this year, which are currently sitting at 2.5%.

Guest Post by Andrew Masters from FiboGroup

Sounding upbeat about the numbers, but still having some concern about other sectors of the economy was Riki Polygenis, co-head of Australian economics at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd who noted,

“For the RBA, today’s figures are encouraging but the reality remains that the recovery in the non-mining economy has been slower to eventuate than expected.”

The Reserve Bank of Australia has kept interest rates on hold at record lows of 2.5% since 2013 to boost economic growth and help Australia make a smooth transition away from the mining boom which is coming to an end..

Brushing off the strong employment numbers and still predicting the RBA will need to cut Interest rates this year to stimulate growth are a number of leading banks including Credit Suisse Group AG, ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank Ltd., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Deutsche Bank AG and Westpac Banking Corp.

In a move that shocked the financial world last week, the Swiss Central Bank decided to end the Swiss francs artificial peg which saw the currency rally up to 30% within a matter of minutes against the Euro before finishing the day around 15% higher.

One of the winners of this surprise move could be the Australian dollar as investors exit the Euro and seek higher yielding currencies such as the Aussie.

CBA chief currency strategist Richard Grace noted,

“You’ve got some participants shuffling out of euros for fear of capital erosion on their reserves and holdings. They’re looking for higher yielding currency assets and that includes the Australian dollar,”

“Going forward, the absence of this large buyer of euros in the market means the Aussie should trade a little bit higher against the euro. You then come back to the fundamentals without this distortion occurring,”

The Australian mining sector took another hit last week after the price of copper fell as low as $5,353.25 a tonne  , its lowest level since 2009 and following in the footsteps of Iron ore and dragging the Australian dollar down with it.

One of the reasons the Aussie dollar was able to remain at such elevated levels in the last few years was the strength in the price of commodities but now like Iron ore, coal, oil and a number of other commodities the price of copper is starting to unravel.

“The Aussie’s stubbornness relative to falling copper prices. gave way in Asia as copper continued to plummet,” said David Forrester, a currency strategist at Macquarie Bank, based in Singapore.

“While copper is a small weight in Australia’s commodity export basket, it punches above this weight when it comes to influencing the Australian dollar, given its importance as an indicator for global commodity demand.”