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Aussie whacked lower again on economy concerns

Reuters 2019-03-13 13:56:27

LONDON (Reuters) - The Australian dollar skidded lower on Wednesday after a local consumer confidence gauge triggered fresh concerns about a slowing economy.

A woman counts Australian dollars at a bank in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Kham/File Photo

Sterling was the other big mover in currency markets, adding half a percent on hopes UK lawmakers will vote down a no-deal Brexit tonight.

Foreign exchange markets elsewhere were mostly quiet in early London trading, with investors cautious as the risk-off mood in Asia spread to Europe.

A measure of Australian consumer confidence slumped to its lowest in over a year in March, adding to recent signs of weakness in the economy.

The Aussie has been sensitive to signs of a loss of economic momentum, particularly after the Reserve Bank of Australia’s upbeat outlook last week failed to dispel bets it would have to lower rates eventually.

The Aussie fell half a percent to as low as $0.70495, although the currency was above 2-month lows of $0.7003 hit last week.

“Yields have come off, stockmarkets are in the red and in FX land, USD and JPY (Japanese yen) are outperforming at the expense of AUD and NZD (New Zealand dollar), particularly after softer domestic data,” said Sue Trinh, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

Trinh said the weak March consumer confidence data in Australia highlighted “continued weakness in consumer spending”, and especially a slowdown in property markets.

The New Zealand dollar also fell, by 0.4 percent to $0.6830.

The U.S. dollar ticked higher, rising 0.1 percent to 96.994 against rival currencies. The euro was little changed at to $1.1287.

Tuesday’s softer-than-expected U.S. February inflation data and falling U.S. government bond yields are denting dollar demand, analysts said.

“Lower U.S. yields continue to put a dampener on U.S. dollar upside potential even amidst more acute weakness overseas. EUR/USD has now fully reversed last week’s sell off following the dovish ECB (European Central Bank) meeting,” MUFG analysts said.

The Japanese yen held firm at 111.36 yen per dollar.

Sterling added 0.6 percent against both the dollar and the euro as traders bet British lawmakers would vote against a no-deal Brexit outcome later on Wednesday.

The pound has had a rollercoaster ride this week, its range varying 3-1/2 cents against the dollar.

Prime Minister Theresa May lost a second attempt to get her Brexit withdrawal agreement passed by parliament, but sterling’s losses have been tempered because most investors are confident Britain will avoid a disruptive Brexit and instead seek to postpone a March 29 departure date from the European Union.

(Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh)