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NZ dollar falls after RBNZ stands pat, signals no change on timing of hikes

Thursday 8th February 2018

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The New Zealand dollar fell to a four-week low against the greenback after the central bank kept rates on hold as expected and continued to signal no increases until at least the latter half of next year.

The kiwi fell to 71.90, the lowest since Jan 11 as at 5pm from 72.52 US cents as at 8am in Wellington from 73.07 cents late yesterday. The trade-weighted index declined to 74.01 from 74.79 yesterday.

Acting Reserve Bank governor Grant Spencer kept the official cash rate unchanged at 1.75 percent and forecast it will rise to 1.9 percent in June 2019, unchanged from its prior projection in November. A full rate increase is still signalled by March 2020 when the benchmark rate is forecast to be 2 percent. The key rate is seen at 2.3 percent in December 2020 and 2.3 percent in March 2021, the end of the forecast period. 

"That's half a percent (increase) in the next three years, which sort of threw a damp cloth on anyone who was bullish interest rates," said Martin Rudings, senior dealer foreign exchange at OMF in Wellington. Also, the RBNZ now doesn't project headline inflation to get back to 2 percent until mid-2020, around two years later than it forecast in November.  The central bank is mandated with keep inflation between 1 percent and 3 percent, with a focus on the midpoint. 

"If pushed, we’d say that on balance the changes made to the Statement are a touch more dovish," said ANZ Bank Chief Economist Sharon Zollner. 

Money markets pared back expectations for the next rate increase to around April or May 2019 from February/March, Rudings said.  He said the kiwi is vulnerable to more downside and could head toward 70.50 US cents "but that would have to be accompanied by some US dollar strength overnight."  

The kiwi was at 91.99 Australian cents from 92.68 cents yesterday. The local currency declined to 4.5308 Chinese yuan from 4.5698 yuan yesterday and fell to 78.62 yen from 79.89 yen. It dropped to 58.57 euro cents from 59.98 cents yesterday and traded at 51.77 British pence from 52.34 pence.

New Zealand's two-year swap rate fell 1 basis point to 2.15 percent, while 10-year swaps were unchanged at 3.27 percent.


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