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Dollar up above 90

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The Australian dollar has rallied one US cent following weaker-than-expected US jobs data.

Early on Monday, the Australian dollar was trading at 90.03 US cents, up from 89.03 cents on Friday.

The US non-farm payrolls report released on Saturday morning, Australian time, showed employers added 74,000 jobs in December, much less than the 197,000 jobs analysts had expected.

The disappointing data weighed the greenback down and that weakness, combined with strong Australian data last week, including retail sales and building approvals figures, propelled the Australian dollar, ANZ senior manager FX in Auckland Sam Tuck said.

“The Australian dollar was the best performing currency against that US dollar weakness,” Tuck said.

“The Australian data is showing signs of stabilisation – the weaker Australian dollar and the stimulus the Reserve Bank of Australia has put into the economy are showing signs of starting to work.

“The positive Aussie data and the negative position in the market already is probably the reason why the Australian dollar was the strongest performing currency against the broadbased US dollar sell-off.”

The first set of official data for the week – home loans – are another sign that the housing recovery is in full swing, meaning another cash rate cut is unlikely.

The number of home loans approved in November was up 1.1 per cent to 52,912, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Monday.

That meant the end of the road for rate cuts during this cycle, Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief economist Michael Blythe said.

“We think (the Reserve Bank of Australia is) done because those interest rate sensitive parts like housing, as we’ve seen today, are moving,” he said.

“You don’t need any more help from that perspective and the sectors that do still need help would benefit more from a lower currency.”

Mr Blythe said the cash rate was likely to rise, from its record low of 2.5 per cent, in late 2014 as a weakening Australian dollar added to inflationary pressures.

National Australia Bank senior economist Spiros Papadopoulos said home loan approvals had risen almost every month in 2013, except August.

But although the housing market was strengthening, it would not be enough to rebalance the economy as the mining investment boom winds down, he said.

He said unemployment would continue to rise, meaning the RBA would be unlikely to raise the cash rate this year.

“This is another indicator that points to the strength in the housing market, alongside rising house prices and the upward trend in building approvals that we’ve seen in recent times,” Mr Papadopoulos said.

“We think there’s still going to be a hole left in the investment outlook and although the housing and construction part of the equation will be supporting growth, the other non-mining sectors will still be quite soft and not strong enough to offset the mining slowdown.

“We don’t think it’s going to be enough overall, which is why we think the unemployment rate is going to head higher and why the RBA won’t be in a position to raise rates this year.”

Housing Industry Association senior economist Shane Garrett said recovery in the housing construction sector would help rebalance the economy by creating more jobs.

“There are few sectors of the economy more labour-intensive than dwelling construction,” Mr Garrett said.

“The strong expansion of the sector brings the potential for greater jobs market support at this time of economic transition.”

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