The Australian dollar has become a matter of ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ with the you being Australian exporters. Bad global news provides a reason for the Aussie to remain strong and good global news provides a reason for it to get stronger.
The bottom line is that our dollar remains elevated and there’s nothing much that can be done about it. Thus wise managements have simply got on with the business of adapting to the reality of a strong currency, leaving the whingeing and complaining to those with the time for pointless pursuits.
At this stage it would be a little cruel to point out all the people who were bravely and foolishly forecasting the Aussie would be sliding below parity now, so as there’s not a fly handy to have its wings removed, let’s just finger a few who stuck their heads up back in July. NAB at that stage was briefly enjoying a spell of reasonably successful currency guessing, but it tempted fate by predicting we’d fall below parity for Christmas and they were not alone.
The only way to be able to claim a record of successful currency forecasting is to stick to a very wide band, so to suggest the Aussie is likely to trade between about US95¢ and US115¢ might be the way to go. Most forex forecasts are just extrapolations of whatever the latest trend might be. Thus there are plenty of suggestions that the Aussie’s current rally will continue.
And it might or it might not. Whichever ends up being the case, there’s little chance of our dollar becoming cheap again.
If you want to concentrate on the gloomy side of the equation, “the ongoing North Atlantic crisis and Japan’s miserable outlook”, it’s a good argument to hold Australian dollars as the Americans, Europeans and Japanese continue to try to debase their currencies. Why would anyone want to hold greenbacks when the Fed has promised to keep printing billions of them every month until American unemployment magically falls?
What is constantly missed in the usual discussion of the exchange rate is that it’s not all about us. The other side of the equation has to be considered and that other side is not a pretty picture.
On the more optimistic side, the gathering confidence that China’s growth rate is growing again is a reason for the world to look more fondly on the Aussie. A strengthening China restores the commodities story, which on top of strong national accountants, sound institutional governance, low government debt, AAA ratings, and a resurgent cricket team means the Aussie looks pretty good.
Yes, it’s higher than we’d like, but sometimes it would be nice if the sun rose in the west for a little variety as well. The good operators accept it and get working harder and smarter to deal with it. It’s all part of the uncomfortable but ultimately rewarding process of being pushed up the value chain.
Michael Pascoe is a BusinessDay contributing editor.
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