Chart of the Week: Will the end of the metals boom end the Aussie dollar’s winning streak?
Australia’s currency seems to be decoupling from the resources industry, despite the fact that it was the latter’s boom that propelled it to its recent highs.
Australia’s $1.4 trillion economy was one of the world’s biggest beneficiaries of the commodities supercycle that now appears to be sputtering to a halt amidst the global economic slowdown. Australia has been one of the most significant consumers of the country’s iron ore, coal and metals production, but now, as we discussed last week even China’s impressive run of double-digit gains in GDP has come to an end, with indications growing that that country’s economy could be even more sluggish than official data suggest.
But while the slump in metals and minerals prices has hit Australia’s mining stocks – and poses some longer term threats to the country’s economy, given the number of jobs tied to the industry – the Australian dollar has been remarkably robust, as this week’s Chart of the Week, below, portrays.
True, the Australian currency isn’t on a tear any more, as it was when mining stocks (a barometer of commodity prices and economic activity) were rising during the economic recovery. But neither has it experienced the kind of setback that some analysts may have expected. One possible reason for the apparent delinkage between the commodities markets and the Australian dollar may be that global investors remain relatively eager to hold assets denominated in that currency. While it is heavily reliant on China, Australia doesn’t face the same kind of problems confronting Europe, or even the political uncertainties of the United States. That makes it a rare bird of sorts: a developed market that may still be able to serve as a safe haven.
Can this be sustained over the long haul? That remains unclear. Some economists contend that the decoupling may well remain a trend, and that the Australian currency will hang on to much of its strength despite the weakness in demand and price of key commodities, such as iron ore. Nonetheless, the short-term trading patterns may well become volatile, as trading late last week showed, when the Australian dollar dropped in the wake of the release of Chinese PMI data showing a contraction.