Australian Dollar loses ground after the softer Aussie inflation data, Fed decision eyed

  • Australian Dollar depreciates for the second straight session on weaker inflation data from Australia.
  • Australia’s Monthly CPI reported 3.4% in December, down from November’s 4.3%.
  • Traders expect two rate cuts from the Reserve Bank of Australia in 2024.
  • Chinese Non-Manufacturing and Manufacturing PMI improved to 50.7 and 49.2, respectively in January.
  • Fed is expected to maintain interest rates at 5.5% for the fourth consecutive time.

The Australian Dollar (AUD) remains on a downtrend on Wednesday after Australian inflation slowed more than anticipated in the December quarter. This has led traders to factor in the possibility of as many as two rate cuts from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) throughout the year. The prevailing risk-off sentiment is adding further downward pressure on the AUD/USD pair, as market participants exercise caution amid heightened tensions in the Middle East.

Australia’s Monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) recorded a year-on-year increase of 3.4% in December, down from November’s 4.3% and below the anticipated 3.7%. The RBA Trimmed Mean CPI (YoY) for the fourth quarter stood at 4.2%, a decline from the 5.2% reported previously and also lower than the expected 4.3%. Meanwhile, the CPI (QoQ) figure came in at 0.6%, softer than the anticipated 0.8% and a notable decrease from the previous reading of 1.2%.

The Reserve Bank of Australia’s target range for inflation is 2.0% to 3.0%. Although the current figures are not within this target range, they represent a significant improvement compared to the peak CPI rate of close to 8.0%. The RBA’s policy meeting is scheduled on February 5 and 6, and it is widely expected that the interest rate decision will be to keep interest rates unchanged.

The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP) has released the monthly Non-Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), indicating an improvement in the performance of China’s service sector for January. The reading came in at 50.7, slightly surpassing the expected figure of 50.6. Concurrently, the Manufacturing PMI also demonstrated improvement, reaching 49.2, meeting the anticipated value and advancing from the previous reading of 49. These improved figures could help in limiting the losses of the Aussie Dollar, as given that Australia and China are close trade partners.

The US Dollar Index (DXY) faces a challenge due to the subdued United States (US) Treasury yields. The risk aversion sentiment could intensify as the administration of US President Joe Biden is anticipated to authorize military strikes in response to the recent drone attack on a US outpost in Jordan. Investors will eye on US ADP Employment Change on Wednesday ahead of the US Nonfarm Payrolls later this week.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is widely expected to maintain interest rates in the range of 5.25–5.50% for the fourth consecutive time in Wednesday’s meeting. During the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) December meeting, officials foresaw three rate cuts in 2024. Investors are keenly awaiting signals from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. Rate swap markets have witnessed a gradual extension of rate cut expectations, and the CME’s FedWatch Tool indicates a 43% probability of the first-rate cut from the Fed in March. In contrast, back in December, swaps initially implied over an 80% chance of a rate trim in March. Furthermore, there is a 53% chance of a 25 basis points rate cut in May.

Daily Digest Market Movers: Australian Dollar declines after softer Aussie inflation data

  • Australia’s Retail Sales (MoM) for December indicated a decline of 2.7%. This figure contrasted with the expected fall of 0.9% and marked a notable reversal from the previous growth of 2.0%.
  • Australia’s Manufacturing PMI increased from 47.6 to 50.3, showcasing improvement. Services PMI also saw an uptick, rising from 47.1 to 47.9. The Composite PMI registered an increase, reaching 48.1 compared to December’s 46.9.
  • US balance sheet showed that since October 2023, the decrease in yields has contributed to the sustainability of the US Treasury, and stronger economic growth has led to improved tax receipts. The US Treasury Department recently announced plans to borrow $760 billion in the first quarter, which is lower than the previous estimate of $816 billion in October.
  • US JOLTS Job Openings improved to 9.026M in December from 8.925M prior, exceeding the anticipated 8.75M.
  • US Housing Price Index (MoM) was unchanged at the reading of 0.3% in November.
  • US Core Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index (PCE) for December showed a 0.2% monthly increase, in line with expectations, compared to 0.1% in the previous reading. The yearly Core PCE rose 2.9%, falling short of the 3.0% expected and the previous reading of 3.2%.
  • The US Gross Domestic Product Annualized (Q4) reported a reading of 3.3% against the previous reading of 4.9%, exceeding the market consensus of 2.0%.

Technical Analysis: Australian Dollar maintains its position above the major level of 0.6550

The Australian Dollar trades around 0.6560 on Wednesday followed by the previous week’s low at 0.6551, aligning with the significant level at 0.6550. The pair could retest the monthly low at 0.6524 if this support is breached. On the upside, the AUD/USD pair could encounter initial resistance at the psychological level of 0.6600 aligned with the 23.6% Fibonacci retracement level at 0.6606. A breakthrough above the latter could lead the AUD/USD pair to test the 21-day Exponential Moving Average (EMA) at 0.6622 followed by the key resistance level at 0.6650.

AUD/USD: Daily Chart

Australian Dollar price today

The table below shows the percentage change of Australian Dollar (AUD) against listed major currencies today. Australian Dollar was the weakest against the US Dollar.

USD   0.21% 0.16% 0.16% 0.47% 0.20% 0.27% 0.12%
EUR -0.21%   -0.07% -0.06% 0.29% -0.02% 0.05% -0.07%
GBP -0.15% 0.06%   0.00% 0.33% 0.04% 0.13% -0.01%
CAD -0.16% 0.07% -0.02%   0.33% 0.04% 0.13% -0.02%
AUD -0.49% -0.27% -0.33% -0.33%   -0.29% -0.22% -0.37%
JPY -0.19% 0.03% -0.04% -0.03% 0.30%   0.06% -0.06%
NZD -0.29% -0.04% -0.14% -0.13% 0.21% -0.09%   -0.14%
CHF -0.12% 0.08% 0.02% 0.02% 0.35% 0.07% 0.14%  

The heat map shows percentage changes of major currencies against each other. The base currency is picked from the left column, while the quote currency is picked from the top row. For example, if you pick the Euro from the left column and move along the horizontal line to the Japanese Yen, the percentage change displayed in the box will represent EUR (base)/JPY (quote).

Australian Dollar FAQs

One of the most significant factors for the Australian Dollar (AUD) is the level of interest rates set by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). Because Australia is a resource-rich country another key driver is the price of its biggest export, Iron Ore. The health of the Chinese economy, its largest trading partner, is a factor, as well as inflation in Australia, its growth rate and Trade Balance. Market sentiment – whether investors are taking on more risky assets (risk-on) or seeking safe-havens (risk-off) – is also a factor, with risk-on positive for AUD.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) influences the Australian Dollar (AUD) by setting the level of interest rates that Australian banks can lend to each other. This influences the level of interest rates in the economy as a whole. The main goal of the RBA is to maintain a stable inflation rate of 2-3% by adjusting interest rates up or down. Relatively high interest rates compared to other major central banks support the AUD, and the opposite for relatively low. The RBA can also use quantitative easing and tightening to influence credit conditions, with the former AUD-negative and the latter AUD-positive.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner so the health of the Chinese economy is a major influence on the value of the Australian Dollar (AUD). When the Chinese economy is doing well it purchases more raw materials, goods and services from Australia, lifting demand for the AUD, and pushing up its value. The opposite is the case when the Chinese economy is not growing as fast as expected. Positive or negative surprises in Chinese growth data, therefore, often have a direct impact on the Australian Dollar and its pairs.

Iron Ore is Australia’s largest export, accounting for $118 billion a year according to data from 2021, with China as its primary destination. The price of Iron Ore, therefore, can be a driver of the Australian Dollar. Generally, if the price of Iron Ore rises, AUD also goes up, as aggregate demand for the currency increases. The opposite is the case if the price of Iron Ore falls. Higher Iron Ore prices also tend to result in a greater likelihood of a positive Trade Balance for Australia, which is also positive of the AUD.

The Trade Balance, which is the difference between what a country earns from its exports versus what it pays for its imports, is another factor that can influence the value of the Australian Dollar. If Australia produces highly sought after exports, then its currency will gain in value purely from the surplus demand created from foreign buyers seeking to purchase its exports versus what it spends to purchase imports. Therefore, a positive net Trade Balance strengthens the AUD, with the opposite effect if the Trade Balance is negative.