Aussie skids as economic growth slows, dollar near two-week peak


The dollar held gains against its peers on Wednesday, buoyed by better-than-expected data, while the Aussie took a knock after Australia’s economic growth slowed last quarter.

The Australian dollar slipped nearly 0.8 percent to a two-month low of $0.7029 as data earlier in the day reinforced recent evidence of slowing domestic momentum and backed market expectations for a rate cut this year.

Economic growth came in at a disappointing 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter, below an expected 0.3 percent, an outcome sure to keep the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) on heightened watch after it abandoned its long-held tightening bias last month.

On Wednesday, the RBA ended a 30th straight meeting with rates at a record-low 1.50 percent.

“Given that many forecasters were on 0.2 percent for fourth-quarter GDP (gross domestic product), the price action on the Australian dollar is worrying,” said Sean Callow, senior currency strategist at Westpac in Sydney.

“It seems markets are not impressed with the details of the report, such as 0.4 percent on household consumption, slight downward revisions and reliance on public spending to keep the economy moving,” he said.

The Aussie was last down 0.7 percent at $0.7034. It also fell as much as 0.9 percent against the Japanese yen, in part pressured by analysts now expecting the possibility of rate cuts in Australia this year.

Its sharp losses spread to the New Zealand dollar, with the kiwi last down half a percent at $0.6764.

On Tuesday, the U.S. dollar rose as unexpectedly strong data on U.S. services industries and new home sales helped sooth some fears about the state of the world’s top economy.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major peers, gained for the fifth straight session overnight, hitting a two-week high of 97.008. It last traded at 96.930 on Wednesday.

Sterling was off 0.3 percent on the day at $1.3142 putting its losses at 0.8 percent so far this week as traders took profit from last week’s surge, when the pound hit its highest since July 9 last year.

The euro was down a shade at $1.1297, hovering near two-week lows versus the greenback amid bets that the European Central Bank meeting on Thursday would indicate a delay in raising rates until next year and the ECB will soon re-launch long-term bank loans to fight an economic slowdown.

“The rates market has really paired back its view on future ECB rate hikes, which is fair given the negative trend in the data flow,” said Chris Weston, Melbourne-based head of research at foreign exchange brokerage Pepperstone.

“While we know (ECB President) Mario Draghi is the master of suppressing volatility and promoting a weaker euro, the bar is so high for a dovish surprise that even he may struggle to out-dove this market,” he wrote in a note.

Investors were also looking to U.S. non-farm payrolls for February due on Friday for fresh indications of wage growth and labour market strength.

Among other G10 currencies, the Canadian dollar traded at its lowest in nearly six weeks, hurt by a combination of trade troubles, resignations from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet and bets the Bank of Canada (BoC) could be close to changing its policy direction.

The BoC is expected to leave domestic borrowing costs unchanged at its policy meeting later on Wednesday, though some traders expect it might lower rates later this year.

Against the yen, the dollar was down a tad at 111.81 yen.

Source: Reuters

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