After weakening for much of 2016 and early 2017, GBP/AUD has mostly traded in a range in 2017. While the pair strengthened in March, it weakened significantly by August as the Australian dollar strengthened. Despite details regarding Brexit remaining scarce, the pound has managed to modestly strengthen in 2017.
The British pound is higher today (particularly against the US dollar), and has been strengthening throughout the week. Thanks to strong regional growth and rising rate hike expectations, the British pound remains in a bullish trend. Pound sterling is also benefiting from a particularly weak US dollar, which is currently trading at 3-year lows. Compared to its key regional peers (such as the euro), the pound is relatively weaker. Unfortunately, Brexit-related risks and relatively weaker economic growth continue to weigh on GBP. Turning to the latest Brexit news, the British government is proposing "mutual recognition" as a means to preserve financial services access to the EU. According to the Financial Times, the proposal calls for the UK and the EU to recognize each other's regulatory regimes as equivalent at the point of Brexit. Any future divergences would be monitored by an independent mechanism. The proposal is likely to be contentious, given that Michel Barnier has repeatedly ruled out access to the single market unless the UK accepts conditions including the free movement of people. Our short-term outlook on the pound is neutral, while our medium-term outlook is bullish.
GBP/USD is currently above 1.4120. EUR/GBP is flat, with the exchange rate above 0.8870. The pound is flat against the Australian dollar and the Canadian dollar. GBP/AUD is currently above 1.7720, while GBP/CAD is above 1.7610.
Looking at UK economic data this week, traders will be watching upcoming inflation and retail sales figures. The consumer price index (3% vs. 2.9% expected) was ahead of expectations. The retail price index (4% vs. 4.1% expected) were slightly below estimates while the producer price index (4.7% vs. 4.2% expected) was ahead of expectations. Later today, we'll see retail sales growth. Expectations remain low, given recent weakness in UK consumer spending. Last week, the Bank of England signaled a positive economic outlook while Markit/CIPS services PMIs were below expectations.
The Australian dollar is fairly mixed today as the global stock market rebound runs out of steam. As a commodity currency, the Australian dollar is highly sensitive to global risk taking appetite. Today, investor sentiment appears to be waning based on global equity and commodity markets. Looking at Asian financial markets, key stock markets including China's Shanghai Composite and Japan's Nikkei 225 have only rebounded to a very limited extent. Austalia's ASX 200 is currently selling off. Relative to its major peers, AUD is currently flat against the US dollar while gaining against the euro and the British pound. As the currency has been fairly weak in the short-term, our outlook remains neutral. In the medium-term, we remain mildly bullish on the Australian dollar's prospects.
AUD/USD is down slightly and trading just above 0.7920. EUR/AUD is down and trading above 1.5710. GBP/AUD is down and trading above 1.7690.
Looking at economic data from Australia this week, traders will be watching employment figures. NAB business confidence (12 vs. 11 prior) was ahead of previous numbers. Westpac consumer sentiment (-2.3% vs. 1.8% prior) was below previous figures. Tomorrow is the most important day, and we'll see employment changes, the unemployment rate and consumer inflation expectations. On Friday, RBA Governor Philip Lowe will deliver a speech. Last week, the trade balance was significantly below estimates thanks to higher-than-expected imports.
As the pair strengthens, we are upgrading GBP/AUD to bullish in the short-term. Note that the pair is now trading within a normal range. This is based on a range of technical indicators on the daily chart.
As the pound strengthens, we are now bullish on GBP/AUD in the medium-term. Note that the pair is trading within a normal range - this is based on technical indicators looking at a weekly chart.
Looking at the British pound today, concerns regarding Brexit and the stock market rout are outweighing the Bank of England’s positive economic outlook. As a currency that benefits from rising risk appetite, pound sterling has been selling off sharply in February thanks to fears regarding elevated asset prices. While Bank of England Governor Mark Carney helped the pound last Thursday after saying…
In our last take on the British pound in early January, we wrote that the currency was set to keep strengthening thanks to strong regional growth, moderate sentiment and the historically low value of the pound. More specifically, the currency looks cheap based on broad nominal effective exchange rates (a measure of the pound relative to other foreign currencies). Looking at GBP/USD since our last…
Looking at this week’s COT report, the British pound is now at a bullish extreme, while the Australian dollar is no longer at a bearish extreme. Bullish extremes continue in long euro and long crude oil speculator net positions. The purpose of this report is to track how the consensus is positioned across various currencies and commodities. When net long positions become crowded in either direct…
For a currency that strengthens when global growth accelerates, recent moves in the Australian dollar have been fairly disappointing. While the currency rocketed higher between mid-December and late January, the Australian dollar has sold off sharply in recent weeks. The currency first began weakening against the Japanese yen, which led us to downgrade our short-term AUD/JPY outlook to neutral on…
Looking at the latest COT report, there are new extremes in short Australian dollars and long euro positions. Long crude oil net positions continue to look fairly crowded. The US dollar remains out of favor, but positioning is not yet at a bearish extreme. Notable e…
In this week’s eventful COT report, there are new extremes in long British pound and short Australian dollar positions. Short Swiss franc net positions are no longer at an extreme, while long crude oil remains a consensus long position in the speculator community. This is shown below. Notable extremes are…
Significance of the GBP/AUD pair
The British pound is the fourth-most traded currency in the world, and a major reserve currency behind the US dollar, euro and the yen. The pound tends to reflect underlying economic conditions in the United Kingdom. The Australian dollar is the world’s fifth-most traded currency. Given the country’s significant export relationship with China (and restrictions on trading the Chinese yuan), the Australian dollar is often seen as a proxy for emerging market growth. The British pound to Australian dollar exchange rate has been gradually weakening since 2000 thanks to the ongoing commodity market rally. In more recent times, GBP/AUD has depreciated sharply thanks to Brexit in mid-2016 and the ongoing Australian dollar rally. Relative GDP growth rates for the United Kingdom and Australia are shown below:
2007 – mid-2008: Pre-financial crisis weakness
Prior to the last global financial crisis, the Australian dollar enjoyed a significant rally. The currency was attractive to global investors given that it is heavily traded, backed by a developed market economy, and offers relatively high interest rates. The underlying Australian economy also did well during this time, thanks to accelerating global demand for industrial commodities such as copper and iron ore. For investors engaged in the global ‘carry trade’ (borrowing low yielding currencies and investing in higher yielding currencies), going long the Australian dollar was a good bet. As part of this trade, investors mostly borrowed low-yielding currencies such as the Japanese yen. As more and more investors took part in the carry trade while Australia’s economy accelerated, the currency strengthened accordingly.
Looking at the pound, the currency enjoyed years of strength prior to the crisis, thanks to the boom in the UK’s financial services-led economy. On the other hand, weak US economic data (particularly in light of growing problems in the US housing market) helped to limit US dollar strength. While the pound did well in this era, the Australian dollar was relatively stronger. GBP/AUD made a long-term bottom during the summer of 2008 around 2.05.
2008: the Eurodollar crisis
While the financial crisis began as a domestic US affair, it soon engulfed the entire world. As we have described in a previous commentary, the real story from that era was that the global Eurodollar funding mechanism collapsed. Prior to the crisis, financial institutions borrowed heavily in offshore US dollar markets and invested the proceeds in US mortgage bonds and international debt. Once Eurodollar lenders began to doubt the creditworthiness of their counterparties, banks found themselves unable to roll over US dollar liabilities. As a result, the US dollar strengthened sharply against most currencies.
Both the Australian dollar and the British pound began selling off aggressively in July 2008. Given the popularity of the carry trade and the Australian dollar’s connection to emerging markets, investors sold the currency aggressively (particularly against the US dollar). Looking at the pound, investors also dumped the currency as European banks had borrowed heavily in the Eurodollar financing market. Given London’s status as Europe’s largest financial center, few were willing to hold pounds when fears of a dollar shortage began rising.
GBP/AUD peaked around 2.65 in October 2008. The pair then depreciated sharply and ended the year back around 2.07. By the end of January 2009, GBP/AUD had once again strengthened to around 2.28.
2009 – 2012: Australian dollar rebound and limited pound strength
Thanks to a significant Chinese economic stimulus program, high rates of immigration, and a substantial depreciation of the currency, Australia escaped a recession following the financial crisis. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, was heavily reliant on its Europe-focused financial services sector. While growth accelerated in 2010, debt issues in peripheral Eurozone countries in 2011 once again led to weaker GDP British growth.
As a result, GBP/AUD sold off between 2009 until the end of 2012. From around 2.28 at the end of January 2009, the currency pair weakened down to around 1.45 by March 2013.
2013 – mid-2016: European resurgence, emerging market downturn
By early 2013, the fortunes of the Eurozone were turning thanks to various European Central Bank bailout schemes. Accelerating GDP growth in the region led to a resurgence of British GDP growth. In Australia, economic growth peaked in 2012 and began decelerating. The year 2012 marked the peak for various industrial commodity prices (Australia’s main export to China), as well as Chinese GDP growth.
Looking at GBP/AUD, the exchange rate strengthened to around 2.20 by September 2015. While the pair fell in early 2016 (as commodities began rebounding alongside Chinese GDP growth), GBP/AUD surged prior to the Brexit referendum vote. Prior to the vote, few believed that the UK would vote to leave the European Union. On June 22, 2016 (one day prior to the vote), GBP/AUD traded close to 1.96.
Mid-2016 – 2017: trading in a channel
Following the shock outcome of the Brexit vote, GBP/AUD began falling. The pair ultimately bottomed in October 2016 around 1.60. Looking at other pairs (such as GBP/USD and EUR/GBP), the pound had broadly weakened following the Brexit vote until October 2016.
For GBP/AUD, 1.60 appears to be an area where the pair has found support in recent history. Between October 2016 and 2017, the pair has traded in a channel between 1.60 and 1.80. In 2017, both currencies have been strengthening broadly. The pound is higher thanks to optimism regarding the Brexit negotiation process. At times, we have written that optimism surrounding the pound (and for a good trade deal) have run ahead of expectations. Looking at the Australian dollar, the currency is strengthening as emerging market growth and commodity prices keep rebounding. Despite the good performance in 2017, our view is that the Australian dollar is likely to weaken in the near future as China’s economy heads for a downturn.