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NZ dollar little changed as recovery in risk appetite weighs on greenback

Thursday 15th February 2018

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The New Zealand dollar was little changed against the US dollar as markets shrugged off the stronger-than-expected inflation data in the US and a recovery in risk sentiment weighed on the greenback. 

The kiwi traded at 73.71 US cents as at 5pm in Wellington versus 73.31 cents late yesterday. The trade-weighted index increased to 75.33 from 75.10. 

The US CPI data showed the core measure excluding food and energy was 0.3 percent in the month and 1.8 percent in the year, beating forecasts of 0.2 percent and 1.7 percent respectively.  However, some of the shine was taken out when weak US retail sales weighed on expectations around economic growth. 

Robert Rennie, chief currency strategist at Westpac Banking Corp, also said investors may be taking a closer look at the fiscal situation as they look at the tax package in the US, the spending increases attached to the funding bill as well as (US President Donald) Trump's budget and infrastructure package. "There is a sense out there that the US fiscal position is on the verge of careering out of control," which could be undermining the dollar, he said. 

The kiwi was also steady against the Aussie after jobs data across the Tasman added to the view there is little or no wage inflation and therefore no reason to lift interest rates anytime soon. It traded at 92.90 Australian cents from 92.93 cents late yesterday.

The Aussie unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent in January from 5.6 percent in December but the number of people in full-time work fell by 49,800 in January.  Paul Dales, chief Australia and New Zealand economist for Capital Economics, also noted a fall in hours worked, with employees on average working 2.7 percents fewer hours than a year ago. "That will limit the boost to household incomes from rising employment and it is consistent with other indications that there is still plenty of capacity in the labour market," he said.

"Without much more wage inflation the RBA isn’t going to raise interest rates. We expect the RBA will keep interest rates at 1.5 percent until the second half of 2019," said Dales.

Rennie said that even though global growth and growth in China is picking up and the Australian economy is forecast to grow above trend this year and into next "it feels as if it is going to be a long time before we see wages and inflation return to levels they (the RBA) would like to see."

He noted that New Zealand central bank did signal an uptick in interest rates toward the end of its forecast cycle in the latest monetary policy statement and while the RBA does not provide the same detail "certainly when you read between the lines you get the sense there is a bit of a difference in the profile" for rates between the two central banks, which could benefit the kiwi.  

The kiwi traded at 52.58 British pence from 52.66 pence. It traded at 59.16 euro cents, unchanged from yesterday and rose to 4.6754 yuan from 4.6425 yuan. The kiwi advanced to 78.55 yen from 78.34 yen.

New Zealand's two-year swap rate rose 2 basis points to 2.17 percent, while 10-year swaps rose 4 points to 3.29 percent.


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