Jobs figures undercut Reserve's attempt to cool hot dollar
Better than expected April jobs figures have undermined the Reserve Bank's efforts to deflate the rising Australian dollar, with signs the economy is experiencing pockets of strong growth.
The currency surged half a cent to trade just over US102.4¢ late on Thursday, after Bureau of Statistics data showed the unemployment rate had fallen to 5.5 per cent.
Trading at these levels the dollar is back to the value it held just before the central bank's decision on Tuesday to cut the official cash rate.
Economists said the April bounce in the labour force data, which showed the economy had added 50,100 jobs as the participation rate lifted to 65.3 per cent, reduced the likelihood the RBA would step in to cut the rate again in June.
Significantly, weak March employment data was a key factor behind the bank's decision to take the cash rate down to its lowest level in half a century.
But the RBA's decision was also driven by an attempt to take the heat out of a currency that has remained mostly above parity against its US counterpart since early 2011, and which has put the squeeze on export-oriented industries.
Currency strategists said the rebounding Australian dollar reflected the extraordinary circumstances the global economy was facing at this time.
"[The RBA] are well aware that they have spent 18 months cutting rates by 200 basis points and the currency is actually stronger in trade-weighted terms than it was before they started," Westpac senior currency analyst Sean Callow said. "They understand that these are extraordinary times as far as interest rates are concerned and you are not going to get the same response to lower rates that you have in previous eras."
Commonwealth Bank currency strategist Joseph Capurso said the Reserve Bank's approach to the high currency was not to intervene directly but to fuel growth in other sectors not strangled by the dollar.
"What they can do is to cut interest rates so that other industries can make up for their shrinkage," Mr Capurso said.
There were 34,500 new full-time positions, and the economy added 15,600 part-time jobs in April, Bureau of Statistics data showed. In NSW, the jobless rate fell to 5.3 per cent from 5.5 per cent. Victoria's jobless rate rose to 5.8 per cent from 5.7 per cent. The Queensland unemployment rate fell sharply from 5.9 per cent to 5.6 per cent. In South Australia it fell from 5.8 per cent to 5.7 per cent.
Economists had expected the national jobless rate to stay at 5.6 per cent, the highest level since 2009.
National Australia Bank chief executive Cameron Clyne said the multitude of factors keeping the dollar strong meant the capacity to influence its movements was limited.
"There's not much you can do about the dollar," he said. "The reality is even with an interest rate cut [on Tuesday] to a level of 2.75 per cent, that's still substantially above most of the northern hemisphere."
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