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NZ dollar little changed near 6-week low, could bounce if FOMC disappoints

Wednesday 21st March 2018

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The New Zealand dollar was little changed near a six-week low ahead of a likely rate hike by the US Federal Reserve but could bounce back if the Fed fails to sound a more hawkish note in its commentary.

The kiwi dollar traded at 71.78 US cents as at 5pm in Wellington from 72.23 cents late yesterday. The trade-weighted index dropped to 73.97 from 74.31.

The Federal Open Market Committee is expected to raise the fed funds rate a quarter point to a range of 1.50 percent to 1.75 percent in an announcement set for early Thursday New Zealand time. More important for markets, however, will be any commentary on its plans for the remainder of the year. Markets have largely priced in three U.S. rate hikes this year - including Thursday's move - but there is some speculation the Fed's forecasts could signal four.

Stuart Ive, senior dealer foreign exchange at OMF in Wellington, said the kiwi has strong support around current levels and would "need the Fed to be hawkish" and signal another rate hike in 2018 to fall from here. On the flipside, any disappointment could see the kiwi rise again, back into familiar ranges, he said.

New Zealand's central bank is also due to publish its rate decision tomorrow - shortly after the Fed but traders and economists are expecting acting governor Grant Spencer to keep interest rates on hold at a record low 1.75 percent and signal no change on the horizon in his last decision before handing the reins over to Adrian Orr.  As a result, little kiwi dollar impact is expected.

"Acting RBNZ Governor Grant Spencer's OCR Review swansong is likely to hand over a neutral-sounding playbook for incoming Governor Adrian Orr," said TD Securities in a note. 

The looming rate decisions mean that the kiwi didn't react much to local data, including figures today showing annual net migration slipped below 70,000 in the year through February, although at 68,900 it remains close to historic highs. It also didn't move much after news that dairy giant Fonterra Cooperative Group lifted its forecast farmgate milk price to $6.55 per kilogram of milk solids from the $6.40/kgMS it projected in December, reflecting the improvement in global dairy prices since then.  

The local currency fell to 76.42 yen from 76.76 yen and at 51.23 British pence from 51.45 pence. The kiwi traded at 58.53 euro cents from 58.50 cents, dropped to 93.29 Australian cents from 93.70 cents and fell to 4.5460 yuan from 4.5691 yuan.

New Zealand's two-year swap rate was unchanged at 2.24 percent and the 10-year swap rate was unchanged at 3.18 percent.


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