Australia’s central bank said low interest rates are supporting household spending and a weaker exchange rate is aiding local firms, even as it reiterated that a subdued inflation outlook gives scope to ease policy further if needed.
“Recent domestic data had generally been positive,” the Reserve Bank of Australia said Tuesday in minutes of its Dec. 1 meeting, where it kept rates at a record-low 2 percent for a seventh month. “Even so, members recognized that there was still evidence of spare capacity in the economy.”
Australia recorded its biggest back-to-back monthly jobs gain since 1988 after adding 71,400 workers in November, and consumer confidence has held up as optimists continue to outweigh pessimists. Expectations the central bank will further lower its benchmark in coming months to boost below-average growth have moderated, with traders pricing in a 44 percent chance of a rate cut by June.
The local currency edged higher, trading at 72.58 U.S. cents at 11:35 a.m. in Sydney from 72.42 cents before the release.
Australia is grappling with the fallout from plunging prices of its commodity exports including iron ore as key trading partner China’s economy cools.
“There was overcapacity in some parts of the Chinese economy,” the RBA said. “Conditions were likely to become more difficult over time for a range of unprofitable firms.”
The central bank, which cut rates twice this year, could be gaining traction in its efforts to boost confidence to spur spending and encourage business investment.
The RBA noted stronger employment growth and surveys showing above average conditions for firms. “There continued to be evidence that very low interest rates were supporting growth in household consumption and dwelling investment, and the exchange rate was adjusting to the significant declines in key commodity prices and boosting demand for domestic production,” it said.
Australian firms in industries including tourism, education and manufacturing have been assisted by a 30 percent drop in the Australian currency since the beginning of 2013.
The RBA said “subdued” wage inflation last quarter was consistent with its forecast for a “prolonged period” of weak growth in pay packets. It said consumer prices were likely to remain consistent with its target range.
“Members judged that the outlook for inflation may afford some scope for a further easing of monetary policy should that be appropriate to lend support to demand,” the minutes said, reiterating recent previous comments.
The central bank will also be waiting on the Federal Reserve meeting this week, when U.S. policy makers are expected to tighten for the first time in almost a decade, potentially exerting downward pressure on the Aussie dollar as a rate differential narrows.
Still, the RBA noted that as confidence in a U.S. move built, the Aussie dollar had appreciated over the prior month, in contrast with most other currencies.
Gold Prices Rise as Soft Dollar Supports Safe-haven Appeal
Gold prices firmed on Monday, propped up by a subdued dollar and slight retreat in the U.S. Treasury yields, with investors gearing up for a week of speeches from U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers for cues on the central bank’s rate hike path.
Spot gold was up 0.5% at $1,759.06 per ounce, as of 0400 GMT, while U.S. gold futures were up 0.4% at $1,759.00.
While the dollar index softened, the benchmark 10-year Treasury yields eased after hitting their highest since early-July. A weaker dollar offered support to gold prices, making bullion cheaper for holders of other currencies.
“Gold is still looking slightly precarious where it is right now, and it’s probably bouncing off key technical level around $1,750,” IG Market analyst Kyle Rodda said.
“Gold remains an yield story and that yield story is very much tied back to the tapering story.”
A slew of Fed officials are due to speak this week including Chairman Jerome Powell, who will testify this week before Congress on the central bank’s policy response to the pandemic.
“There’ll be a lot of questions being put to Fed speakers about what the dot plots implied last week and weather there is higher risk of heightened inflation going forward and that rate hikes could be coming in the first half of 2022,” Rodda added.
A pair of Federal Reserve policymakers said on Friday they felt the U.S. economy is already in good enough shape for the central bank to begin to withdraw support for the economy.
Gold is often considered a hedge against higher inflation, but a Fed rate hike would increase the opportunity cost of holding gold, which pays no interest.
Investors also kept a close watch on developments in debt-laden property giant China Evergrande saga as the firm missed a payment on offshore bonds last week, with further payment due this week.
Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, increased 0.1% to 993.52 tonnes on Friday from 992.65 tonnes in the prior session.
Silver rose 0.9% to $22.61 per ounce.
Platinum climbed 1.3% to $994.91, while palladium gained 0.7% to $1,985.32.
Brent Crude Oil Near $80 Per Barrel Amid Supply Constraints
Oil prices rose for a fifth straight day on Monday with Brent heading for $80 amid supply concerns as parts of the world sees demand pick up with the easing of pandemic conditions.
Brent crude was up $1.14 or 1.5% at $79.23 a barrel by 0208 GMT, having risen a third consecutive week through Friday. U.S. Oil added $1.11 or 1.5% to $75.09, its highest since July, after rising for a fifth straight week last week.
“Supply tightness continues to draw on inventories across all regions,” ANZ Research said in a note.
Rising gas prices as also helping drive oil higher as the liquid becomes relatively cheaper for power generation, ANZ analysts said in the note.
Caught short by the demand rebound, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, known as OPEC+, have had difficulty raising output as under-investment or maintenance delays persist from the pandemic.
China’s first public sale of state oil reserves has barely acted to cap gains as PetroChina and Hengli Petrochemical bought four cargoes totalling about 4.43 million barrels.
India’s oil imports hit a three-month peak in August, rebounding from nearly one-year lows reached in July, as refiners in the second-biggest importer of crude stocked up in anticipation of higher demand.
Oil Holds Near Highest Since 2018 With Global Markets Tightening
Oil held steady near the highest close since 2018, with the global energy crunch set to increase demand for crude as stockpiles fall from the U.S. to China.
Futures in London headed for a third weekly gain. Global onshore crude stocks sank by almost 21 million barrels last week, led by China, according to data analytics firm Kayrros, while U.S. inventories are near a three-year low. The surge in natural gas prices is expected to force some consumers to switch to oil, tightening the market further ahead of the northern hemisphere winter.
China on Friday sold oil to Hengli Petrochemical Co. and a unit of PetroChina Co. in the first auction of crude from its strategic reserves said traders with the knowledge of the matter. Grades sold included Oman, Upper Zakum and Forties.
Oil has rallied recently after a period of Covid-induced demand uncertainty, with some of the world’s largest traders and banks predicting prices may climb further amid the energy crisis. Global crude consumption could rise by an additional 370,000 barrels a day if natural gas costs stay high, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
“Underpinning the latest bout of price strength is a tightening supply backdrop,” said Stephen Brennock, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd.
Various underlying oil market gauges are also pointing to a strengthening market. The key spread between Brent futures for December and a year later is near $7, the strongest since 2019. That’s a sign traders are positive about the market outlook.
At the same time, the premium options traders are paying for bearish put options is the smallest since January 2020, another indication that traders are less concerned about a pullback in prices.
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