Finance

Negative interest rates a boon for Aussie importers

Jim Vrondas /

After much anticipation, the European Central Bank (ECB) finally announced some important policy changes that have seen the euro weaken by around one and a half cents against the Australian dollar. The fall reduces the cost of imports from the eurozone by over $A3000 for every €100,000 in a little over a week.

So why has the ECB caused the sharp move in the currency?

Most of the talk has been around the decision to reduce the deposit rate for bank deposits. Going forward, the ECB will charge commercial banks a fee in the form of a negative deposit rate for parking funds with them. This is a first for a developed nation and is aimed at forcing the banks to release capital, i.e. lend more so the real economy can get easier access to money. A real headline grabber!

The other less sexy measure was a new Targeted Long Term Refinancing Operation, with the acronym TLTRO, likely to replace the previous LTRO. The difference? This one is now targeted (just add T to the beginning). This policy is another injection of cash into the banking sector with some caveats attached which make it more targeted than the previous version. Commercial banks now have to use the money specifically to lend it out to the private sector.

In its accompanying statement, the ECB decided to “intensify the preparatory work related to outright purchases in the ABS market”. In other words, it’s now committed to embarking on a European-style quantitative easing program which will serve to weaken the euro.

But it’s not all about the euro

Coinciding with a weaker euro, we have seen the Aussie strengthening on the back of some better than expected domestic economic data and a rosier outlook for China. In this context the local unit has pushed through 94 US cents and is seeing some calls for parity once again. The combination of these two forces sees the AUD/EUR cross-rate edging closer to 0.7, a level not seen since November last year.

Whilst the trend is expected to continue, the chart above highlights what could be a significant resistance point around 0.7116. For those businesses importing from Europe, a move above 0.7 to this level could represent a good opportunity to hedge some future exposures and lock in an exchange rate some 11% better than what it was in January of this year. Such significant cost savings should help deliver a better bottom line for businesses in the next financial year.

Jim Vrondas is Chief Currency strategist, Asia-Pacific at OzForex, a global provider of online international payment services and a key provider of Forex news.

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