Is $ 0.75 possible?
Calls for a drop to $ 0.75 are premised on a deteriorating outlook for Australia’s two biggest exports – iron ore and coal – and a strengthening U.S. currency as the Federal Reserve prepares to raise interest rates this year.
In addition, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has been trying to jawbone the Aussie lower. Last month, RBA governor Glenn Stevens said in an interview with the Australian Financial Review that he prefers the Australian dollar to trade at 75 cents – a level last touched in May 2009.
Capital Economics expects the central bank’s wish to come true by year-end: “While we don’t expect the Australian dollar to tumble as far as it did in 2014, we forecast the exchange rate against the U.S. dollar to drop to $ 0.75 by end-2015,” it said in a note on Tuesday.
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To be sure, other analysts are less bearish.
Westpac expects the Australian dollar to slip to $ 0.79 in the first six months of 2015 before bouncing back to $ 0.85 by year-end, as commodity prices find some reprieve from a pick-up in the Chinese economy.
Meanwhile, Standard Chartered expects limited downside in commodity prices to limit losses for the Aussie: “The majority of the weakness in key commodity prices has occurred in 2014. Concurrently, Chinese steel exports have been rising, while inventories seem to be declining,” the bank wrote in a note.
Furthermore, expectations for a 50-basis-point cut by the RBA this year in response to a slump in commodity prices have already been priced in, curbing the potential for further declines in the Aussie, analysts say.
“What is cushioning the downside is market pricing in fairly aggressive rate cuts [by the RBA], so we’re not going to see 75 cents,” Sydney-based Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG, told CNBC on Tuesday. “Aussie will likely reach 78 cents over the next 3-6 months.”
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Analysts also foresee the Australian dollar fighting a losing battle against its New Zealand counterpart in the first half of the year.
Currently, the Aussie is near a one-month low of 1.0549 against the kiwi dollar, fueling speculation that the cross will reach parity amid diverging monetary policy. While the RBA is expected to ease rates further from their current record low of 2.5 percent, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, which hiked rates four times in 2014, is mulling further rate hikes.
“I think on the AUD/NZD cross, some of the key long-term technical levels have been broken, so there will probably be further downside,” Todd Elmer, Citi’s currency strategist, told CNBC.