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NZ dollar trades near six-month low in wake of rating downgrades

Monday 3rd October 2011

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The New Zealand dollar starts the new quarter under pressure, trading near six-month lows following the sovereign credit rating cut by Fitch and Standard & Poor’s on Friday and ongoing concern about Europe’s debt crisis.

The kiwi dollar dropped to 76.07 U.S. cents at 8am from 76.52 U.S. cents at 5pm on Friday. It peaked at 76.86 U.S. cents in New York trading when equity markets bounced before resuming a slide lower. The kiwi shed 12% against the greenback last quarter.

"The risk is skewed to the downside today," said Mike Burrowes, currency strategist at Bank of New Zealand. "Kiwi fell and is sitting near lows," he said.

Trading is expected to be subdued with the ANZ Commodity Index the main highlight today and Australian investors participation reduced by the Labour Day holiday.

Traders are also awaiting the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion tomorrow.

But analysts said the key theme of the week will again be the financial stability of Europe. There is ongoing concern that big economies are struggling to perform.

The Euro Stoxx 50 index closed down 1.5 percent and the S&P 500 closed down 2.5 percent. Commentators wrote at length about the troubled September quarter for markets.

"The third quarter of 2011 drew to a close on Friday, appropriately with a risk-off day that evoked negative returns for most asset classes," ANZ economists said.

German retail sales plunged and Spain confirmed it will take over three troubled lenders.

Last week Finance Minister Bill English welcomed the lower kiwi dollar, saying it would deliver some offset to agricultural commodity exporters, who are seeing world prices come off highs of the last 12 months.

S&P sovereign credit analyst Kyran Curry said there was a risk that New Zealand’s external position will deteriorate further at a time when resources are stretched.

The kiwi dollar was mixed. On the trade-weighted index, or TWI, it was at 68.17 from 68.06 on Friday.Against the Australian dollar, the kiwi rose to 78.70 Australian cents from 78.43 Australian cents on Friday.

It was at 58.65 yen from 58.58 yen on Friday and was at 57.02 euro cents from 56.53 euro on Friday.

The kiwi dollar rose to 48.89 British pence from 49.08 British pence on Friday.

The New Zealand dollar may push higher in the next 12 months, assuming the U.S. avoids recession and Europe gets its sovereign debt overhang in order.

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