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NZ dollar gains as data shows jobs growth, lower unemployment rate, wages still flat

Wednesday 3rd May 2017

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The New Zealand dollar rose as stronger-than-expected employment figures and an unexpectedly big increase in dairy prices stoked demand for the local currency, lifting it from the 10-month lows it hit last week. 



The kiwi climbed as high as 69.68 US cents and was trading at 69.48 cents as at 5pm in Wellington from 69.18 cents yesterday. The trade-weighted index rose to 75.37 from 74.99.



Government figures today showed New Zealand's unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 4.9 percent in the March quarter as jobs growth rose 1.2 percent, a faster pace than the growth in population. While that showed signs of a tightening labour market, wage growth remained subdued meaning it won't drive up inflation and will likely keep the pressure off the Reserve Bank to hike interest rates. A bigger increase than anticipated in dairy prices at the latest GlobalDairyTrade auction added to the upbeat tone for the kiwi. 



"The headline levels in the labour market figures are strong and the market is tightening up with employment running along very nicely, but the wage inflation story is really non-existent and that's the more important message for the RBNZ here," ANZ Bank New Zealand senior economist Phil Borkin said. "The kiwi got close to that 70 (US cents) level, but we've peeled off a little bit" as investors got past the headline numbers and looked more closely at the detail, he said. 



Prime Minister Bill English today said the kiwi was at a "pretty positive" level for exporters and near 70 US cents or a little lower wasn't a bad balance for the country. 



The kiwi could push a little higher in the near-term after dropping near a 10-month low last week when the prospect of growing trade protectionism weighed on New Zealand's prospects as a nation reliant on overseas markets, however ANZ still expects it will drift modestly lower over the coming 12 months as the US economy continues to expand and the Federal Reserve marks a return to more normal monetary policy settings. 



The Fed will end a two-day policy meeting on Wednesday in Washington and is expected to keep its fed funds rate target at 0.75 percent to 1 percent, having pencilled in two rate hikes later this year. 



Other data today showed New Zealand property values plateaued in April as tightening credit conditions and lending restrictions weighed on the number of sales. Separate figures showed the volume of house sales dropped in Auckland. 



The kiwi rose to 92.51 Australian cents from 91.66 cents late yesterday after Australia’s central bank kept its cash rate unchanged as expected. It gained to 4.7872 yuan from 4.7672 yuan and rose to 77.84 yen from 77.37 yen. It gained to 63.55 euro cents from 63.37 cents and advanced to 53.81 British pence from 53.63 pence.



The two-year swap rate slipped 1 basis point to 2.29 percent and 10-year swaps fell 3 basis points to 3.35 percent. 





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