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NZ dollar gains against Aussie after weak Australian construction data

Wednesday 21st February 2018

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The New Zealand dollar gained against the Aussie after a weak construction survey across the Tasman offset stronger-than-expected Australian wages growth. The local currency continued to lose ground against the greenback.

The kiwi traded at 93.31 Australian cents as at 5pm in Wellington versus 93.07 Australian cents as at 8am and from 92.98 cents late yesterday. The kiwi declined to 73.34 US cents from 73.56 cents late yesterday.

The Aussie initially got a lift when the Australian Bureau of Statistics said wages rose 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter from the third quarter and rose 2.1 percent over calendar 2017 as the data lent support to the idea that interest rates might be raised sooner than anticipated. However, it fell back when the statistics bureau said the seasonally adjusted estimate for total construction work done fell 19.4 percent in the December quarter versus an expected decline of around 10 percent. 

"The Aussie initially lifted on the wages data but came off quite hard on that construction data and there were a couple of nasty corporate results as well," said Tim Kelleher, head of institutional foreign exchange sales at ASB Bank, pointing to Wesfarmers.

The Perth-based business flagged impairment charges earlier this month and today reported net profit of A$212 million in the six months to Dec. 31, down from A$1.58 billion a year earlier.

Kelleher said the kiwi was weighed against the greenback as the US dollar continued to gain some traction in Asia as investor shifted their attention to rising Treasury yields. 

"The US is having quite a nice day in Asia... I think we have probably seen the bottom of the weakness and the risk is we will continue to grind up," said Kelleher.  

Markets will be watching for the minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting held in late January for any clues about future rate increases, with the minutes due overnight tonight. 

Kelleher said the kiwi is likely to continue to weaken as "I don't see how we can hold up if the US dollar is stronger and US rates are higher." 

The trade-weighted index was at 75.31, unchanged from yesterday. The kiwi rose to 59.46 euro cents from 59.38 cents and traded at  52.42 British pence from 52.62 pence late yesterday. It fell to 4.6525 yuan from 4.6676 yuan and rose to 79.02 yen from 78.52 yen.

New Zealand's two-year swap rate fell 1 basis point to 2.16 percent, while 10-year swaps were unchanged at 3.26 percent.


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