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NZ dollar sags after avalanche of data and central bank action

Friday 20th September 2019

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The New Zealand dollar was little changed but with a decidedly soft tone after a busy week for global central banks, data from China, Australia and New Zealand, and ahead of a local rate decision next week.

The kiwi was trading at 62.95 US cents at 5pm in Wellington, off the day's low at 62.83 cents and from 63 cents at 8am. The trade-weighted index was at 69.92 from 70.06. The currency has lost more 1 percent this week after closing in New York last Friday at 63.75 cents.

"I would be hard-pushed to supply too much of a reason" for the kiwi's soggy tone, says Robert Rennie, chief currency strategist at Westpac in Sydney.

Other more risky assets, such as equity markets and the Australian dollar have been performing well, he said.

"The kiwi is under-performing. I'm slightly surprised myself. I thought it would've been doing better today, given the improved tone in the market." 

That tone is due to the US and China agreeing to renew talks aimed at ending their trade war. Officials from the two nations are set to meet early next month.

Rennie says the Australian dollar has been quite resilient, despite yesterday's employment data being viewed as paving the way for another Reserve Bank of Australia rate cut and data from China that has been very disappointing.

The Australian jobs figures showed the unemployment rate ticking up to 5.3 percent from 5.2 percent in July. The 34,700 jobs created were more than twice the 15,000 expected, but reflected growth in part-time jobs. Full-time jobs fell 15,500.

China's June-quarter growth of 6.2 percent was the slowest since that country began reporting quarterly figures and the preliminary estimate for the quarter ending this month is 6-6.5 percent.

China is both Australia and New Zealand's largest trading partner and Australia is New Zealand's second-largest trading partner, but because so many of Australia's exports are mining-based, such as iron ore, the Aussie dollar tends to suffer more from Chinese economic weakness.

As expected, the Federal Reserve cut its key rate by 25 basis points while other central banks, including the Bank of Japan and Bank of England, left their key rates unchanged.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is set to review its official cash rate next Wednesday, although it won't be producing a full monetary policy report until November.

On Aug. 7, when the RBNZ delivered its last monetary policy statement, it shocked the market with a 50 basis point cut. Economists now mostly think it won't cut again until November, but they aren't ruling out the possibility of another surprise next week.

"Once bitten, twice shy – maybe there's an element of that going on," Rennie says.

The New Zealand dollar was at 92.61 Australian cents from 92.69, at 50.11 British pence from 50.40, at 56.91 euro cents from 57.02, at 67.86 yen from 68.04 and at 4.4581 Chinese yuan from 4.4697.

The two-year swap rate eased to a bid price of 0.9325 percent from 0.9586 yesterday while 10-year swaps fell to 1.2400 percent from 1.2525.


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