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NZ dollar gains in face of US, China holidays

NZ dollar gains in face of US, China holidays, but may suffer on greenback strength

By Jonathan Underhill

Feb. 19 (BusinessDesk) - The New Zealand dollar fell from the four-month high it reached at the end of last week amid speculation the market may be under-estimating the prospects for Federal Reserve rate hikes this year that should support the greenback.

The kiwi traded at 73.98 US cents as at 5pm in Wellington from 73.88 cents in New York on Friday and down from as high as 74.38 cents at the end of last week. The trade-weighted index was at 75.60 from 75.54 in New York.

With public holidays in both China and the US, trading has been somewhat subdued today, said Martin Rudings, senior dealer at OMF. Local economic data this week may not be enough to drive the kiwi dollar, including business prices and quarterly retail sales, and prices at the GlobalDairyTrade auction are expected to be flat, meaning the currency will probably take its lead from the US dollar and perceptions of US monetary policy.

"There's some thought there might be a little bit more of a US dollar rally," Rudings said. "That might pull the Australian and New Zealand dollars down. The kiwi may be consolidating its gains."

Rudings expects the New Zealand dollar to trade in a range of 73.50 US cents to 74.40 cents in coming days. The biggest event may be the minutes of the last Federal Open Market Committee and any sign the Fed will become more hawkish now that former chair Janet Yellen has stepped down.

The minutes may be relatively upbeat about the US economy, Rudings said. The Fed may hike three times this year while traders are only pricing in 2.5 hikes, and there was a risk "it may slip in a fourth hike."

The kiwi didn't move much after the BNZ-Business NZ performance of services index fell 0.2 points to a seasonally adjusted 55.8 last month. The PSI followed the PMI survey on Friday, which showed manufacturing activity rose 4.5 points to a seasonally adjusted 55.6 in January.

The kiwi dollar edged up to 93.27 Australian cents from 93.18 cents in New York on Friday. It traded at 52.67 British pence from 52.57 pence. It was at 59.55 euro cents from 59.42 euro cents and rose to 4.6925 yuan from 4.6779 yuan. The kiwi edged up to 78.65 yen from 78.39 yen.

New Zealand's two-year swap rate was little changed at 2.16 percent, while 10-year swaps fell 1 point to 3.26 percent.


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