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Trading Performance 2017-2018

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The Reserve Bank of Australia ended its November board meeting with rates held at an all-time low of 1.50%, and signalled policy will stay there for a while yet.

"Inflation remains low and stable," RBA Governor Philip Lowe said in a statement. "Inflation is expected to pick up over the next couple of years, with the pick-up likely to be gradual."

"Gradual" remains the watchword as inflation stays stubbornly below the central bank's 2-3% target band and wages only barely keep up with consumer prices despite solid job gains.

The bank will issue updated economic forecasts this Friday and Lowe offered a taster on the outlook, noting that inflation would slightly pick up to 2.25% in 2019 and a "bit higher" the following year.

"With the economy growing above trend, a further reduction in the unemployment rate is expected to around 4.75% in 2020," Lowe said.

That is a marked improvement from the previous central bank forecast of 5.25% for mid-2020 in projections released in August. Tuesday's revised forecast follows an unexpected slip in the unemployment rate to 5.0% in September, led by a bumper run in job growth over the past year and as fewer people looked for work.

Financial markets have steadily pushed out the likely timing of a move, with the most distant futures contract for April 2020 pricing in about 80% change of tightening.

The domestic case for a hike has also been weakened by a sharp slowdown in the once red-hot housing market in Sydney and Melbourne.

Values in Sydney, the country's largest city, clocked their worst annual performance since 1990 in October, led by a regulatory clamp-down on investment loans and tighter lending standards by banks.

So far, Lowe hasn't displayed any unease over this downtrend, saying there is still "strong competition for borrowers of high credit quality."

Lowe remained upbeat about the economy and said in recent comments that the next move in rates is likely to be up rather than down.

The 6 November midterm elections will serve as a first political bellwether ahead of the 2020 presidential elections. Voters will be choosing members of Congress - 35 senators and all 435 members of the House of Representatives. Even though President Trump’s name is not officially on the ballot, there can be no doubt that this is a referendum on his politics, as Trump and his presidency have been the dominant topic of most campaign races.

Republicans are well positioned in the battle for the Senate though as only nine of their seats are up for election, while Democrats are defending 24 of theirs and two independents who vote with them are also up. Polls suggest that the Republicans will keep a majority in the Senate, while the Democrats may take the House of Representatives. If the Democrats do win the House, their main focus will be to lay the groundwork for the 2020 election, when the party hopes to win back the presidency as well as the majority in the Senate.

If Democrats win control of one or both of those houses, they'll be able to limit how much President Trump can achieve in the final two years of his term. We do not expect any change in trade policies or an infrastructure program, but the Democrats may attempt to use the control they gain over House committees to launch oversight investigations into several issues, including the president's business dealings.

The USD could weaken somewhat in the event of a Democrat victory in the House. We should also expect stronger commodity currencies (CAD), especially those related to Chinese economy (AUD, NZD) and weaker safe-haven currencies (JPY, CHF).

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