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NZ dollar holds gains ahead of expected rate hike

NZ dollar holds gains ahead of expected hike in Reserve Bank interest rates

By Tina Morrison

March 13 (BusinessDesk) – The New Zealand dollar, which has advanced 3.4 percent so far this year, is unchanged ahead of the Reserve Bank meeting today where governor Graeme Wheeler is widely expected to increase interest rates by a quarter point.

The kiwi was unchanged at 84.67 US cents at 8am in Wellington, from 5pm yesterday and 81.91 cents at the start of the year. The trade-weighted index edged lower to 79.31 from 79.49 yesterday.

Governor Wheeler has signalled the official cash rate will have to rise from its record-low 2.5 percent to head off the threat of future inflation, and investors will today be looking for further detail on the extent and pace of any future hikes. Traders have priced in a 100 percent chance of a rate hike when the decision is released at 9am today, according to the Overnight Index Swap curve. Higher interest rates boost the appeal of local assets, increasing demand for the nation’s currency.

“Today the RBNZ is almost unanimously expected to raise the OCR from its historic low of 2.5 percent,” Kymberly Martin, markets strategist at Bank of New Zealand, said in a note. “Any deviation from this expectation (unlikely in our view) would prompt a large response in the currency. Still, even delivery on expectation may prompt the obligatory knee-jerk tick higher in the NZD/USD.”

BNZ’s Martin said she will be looking for potential upgrades to the central bank’s expectations for growth, inflation and the 90-day bank bill rate.

The New Zealand dollar slipped to 94.15 Australian cents at 8am in Wellington from 94.45 cents at 5pm yesterday ahead of the release of Australian employment data at 1:30pm New Zealand time.

Economists expect Australia to have added 15,000 jobs in February and for the unemployment rate to remain at 6 percent.

Chinese retail sales, industrial production and fixed asset investment reports, scheduled for release at 6:30pm New Zealand time, may also weigh on the Australian currency, Martin said.

The kiwi weakened to 60.89 euro cents from 61.11 cents yesterday, was little changed at 50.95 British pence from 50.93 pence and slipped to 86.92 yen from 87.21 yen.

New Zealand’s food price index is released at 10:45am while tonight traders will be eyeing US retail sales data for February.


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