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  1. After regaining some of its losses in November, the downward trend of the Pound against the Australian Dollar of the past few months continued as it slipped by almost 10 cents throughout December, finishing the year at around the 2.25 levels. Weaker data from the UK and continued nervousness from the credit crunch prompted the Bank of England to cut their rates to 5.5%, with increasing speculation that there could be further cuts in the early part of 2008. The housing market fell for the second month in a row and, with mortgage approvals also dropping, Sterling lost ground on all the major currencies hitting an all time low against the Euro. In Australia the RBA, as expected, kept their rates at a lofty 6.75% and many analysts are predicting that inflationary pressures and a tight labour market will most probably force rates even higher throughout the course of the year. Gold prices are also at an all time high, and with the US Dollar still weak, Australia remains an attractive investment for those with renewed risk appetite. Looking at it from a yearly perspective, 2007 was an extremely volatile year for £ vs the $AUD. From January to August the rate dropped from 2.50 to around the 2.30 mark, as investors took advantage of the high yielding Aussie Dollar. The money markets then went into turmoil, the root cause of which was the US Sub Prime crisis and burst of the US housing bubble, leading to instability and panic in the equity markets. Risk aversion set in and investors were forced to realise their profits and sell back their dollars, thus pushing the exchange rate up to 2.56. Since the Northern Rock storm blew up, Sterling has been tarred with a similar brush and the severity of the situation led to a sharp downturn in the housing market and a sharp reversal of economic growth forecasts. Coupled with increased risk appetite among investors as the market began to settle, the rates traced all the way down to 2.21, a 35 cent move in just 10 weeks! It is worth noting that this dramatic move was out of the ordinary, but you cannot hide the fact that the Australian Dollar progressively strengthened against the pound throughout the course of 2007. Previous articles have made reference to the difficulty in predicting these moves, especially in light of current market conditions, and also highlighted the options available to protect oneself against the risks of a volatile market. One such option is a forward contract, or ‘buy now pay later’ method, whereby you can lock into a rate of exchange with just a 10% deposit, for delivery up to 2 years in the future. If you had locked in at the beginning of January 07, you would have achieved around the 2.50 mark. In ’08 that figure would have been about 2.27, a massive 23 cent difference, or $56,000 on £200,000! Put into perspective, that is your new house furnishings or even a very nice new car! However for some people this may not be an option as they do not have the money available to them. The UK housing market is currently experiencing a slow down, with houses taking longer to sell, so many people will leave the majority of their funds in the UK. HiFX have an office in Sydney, which is fully ASIC regulated, and an account can be set up with them before you leave the UK, making the transition as smooth as possible. For those of you who are leaving for Australia over the coming months, forward planning has never been more important. Best of luck, Richard, HiFX
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