What does the changing US dollar mean for you?

By Nila Sweeney

Newspaper headlines have been dominated by stories of the soaring Australian dollar in recent weeks – but what does it really mean for the economy? Aside from encouraging shopping binges on Amazon in time for Christmas, what impact does a weakening US dollar have on you?

In recent weeks the Aussie dollar has strengthened against the US dollar, reaching the high US$0.90s and briefly crossing the US$1.00 barrier on October 15. But just why is the Australian dollar so strong, and what does it mean for our economy?

The value of the Australian dollar largely depends on the strength or weakness of the US dollar, as the AU is viewed as an alternative investment to the greenback. The weakness of the US economy has served to drive our dollar higher. Our rebounding economy – complete with six RBA interest rate increases in the last 12 months – has also helped the Australian dollar rise, as higher rates attract foreign investors who are looking for better returns.

Dr Shane Oliver, chief economist and head of investment strategy at AMP, says currencies are “always volatile”. While there’s no guarantee that our dollar will stay strong, it is highly probable that it will remain at or above the US dollar in the coming months. “With the US dollar likely to remain under pressure, the Reserve Bank of Australia remaining on track to raise interest rates further, and Australia’s terms of trade at a near 60-year high, it is likely that the Australian dollar will settle above parity over the year ahead – probably around the US$1.10 level,” Oliver says. “Of course, if global growth collapses anew then all bets are off, and a plunge back below US$0.80 would be possible – but this is unlikely.”


All of this is great news if you plan on holidaying in the US any time soon, or if you plan to shop for US goods or services online – there are some whopping bargains to be had, from electronics through to fashion and jewelry.

It’s also fairly good news if you’re a mortgage holder. In the minutes of the Reserve Bank’s October meeting, the Board commented on the strength of the Australian dollar. It noted that it had appreciated by almost 4% in the past month and that “the appreciation of the exchange rate represented a tightening of domestic financial conditions”.

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan commended the central bank for noting the ”beneficial effects” of the high dollar, and described it as “an important shock absorber” for our economy. The fact that the RBA mentioned the currency as a factor in keeping interest rates on hold for October was “very important”, says Westpac’s chief currency strategist Robert Rennie. After all, the Reserve Bank is aiming to keep a lid on inflation – and “were the currency to continue appreciating, that does some of the work for them,” he says.

Want to take advantage of the strong Aussie dollar?


Shop your heart out here:
Amazon  - Everything from books and DVDs to garden gnomes.
Ebay (USA)  – The world’s largest online auction house.
Strawberrynet  – A seller of discounted cosmetics and fragrances.
Victoria’s Secret - Women’s clothing, cosmetics and fragrances.
Urban Outfitters – Men’s and women’s clothing, plus furniture and house decor.
Overstock   – High quality, brand name merchandise at discounted prices.
Shoe Buy  - The world’s largest online shoe retailer.
B&H   – All camera, photo and video needs.
HopShopGo  - Allows you to shop any website in the world, consolidate packages and get them sent back home.