Rand routed

Last Friday Norway's Aftenposten newspaper carried the obituary of Olausen Julenisse, aged 227. To the relief of children around the world the story has now been revealed as a hoax. According to Father Christmas himself: "the report of my death was an exaggeration". As, perhaps, were today's Australian employment numbers.

Analysts had forecast a loss of 10k Australian jobs in November, pushing unemployment up from 5.9% to 6.0%. Investors were therefore startled when the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported the addition of 71.4k jobs last month and an unemployment rate of 5.8%. The Aussie jumped more than two cents higher on the news. Since then it has given back half of that gain because nobody quite believes the accuracy of the data. Consequently, the Aussie remains fractionally - a quarter of a cent - lower on the day against sterling. 

At the head of the pack the NZ dollar is up by a cent as a result of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand's decision to cut its benchmark interest rate from 2.75% to 2.5%. Because move was widely expected, and as a result of the RBNZ's comment that it expects its inflation target to be achieved "at current interest rate settings", the Kiwi moved three cents higher following the announcement, more than offsetting the losses it had incurred yesterday.

Politics palls rand
The South African rand came to grief in spectacular fashion yesterday evening on news that President Zuma had sacked his finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, replacing him with David van Rooyen. Mr Nene's defenestration cast doubt on the government's commitment to tackling the country's fiscal deficit.

In little more than half an hour the rand lost 4% of its value, falling to all-time lows against most of the major currencies. Since then it has staged a slight recovery but is still down by -4.3% on the day as a result of earlier losses. 

Had it not been for the rand's undoing the North American dollars would have been the day's biggest losers. Both fell by around -1%; a cent and a half for the Greenback and two cents for the Loonie. There was no clear justification for the move, which could have resulted simply from investors squaring their positions in good time for the Federal Reserve's rate announcement next week.

SNB and BoE
There are two more central bank policy decisions to come today, from the Swiss National Bank and the Bank of England. One is fairly predictable; the other is not. The ecostat agenda holds little promise.

Most believe the Bank of England will keep its Bank Rate at 0.5% for an 82nd month, with eight members of the Monetary Policy Committee voting for an unchanged benchmark rate and one in favour of an immediate increase. The Swiss National Bank's decision is a different matter. A move further into negative territory is easy enough to imagine.

There are no top-tier ecostats on the agenda. Britain's trade deficit ought not to matter.