Kiwi takes flight as New Zealand’s central bank surprises by standing pat

A New Zealand Dollar note is seen in this picture illustration. — Reuters pic
A New Zealand Dollar note is seen in this picture illustration. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, Nov 13 — The New Zealand dollar soared 1 per cent today after the country’s central bank unexpectedly left interest rates on hold, while most other currencies trod water.

“It’s flying. Massive surprise,” said Imre Speizer, head of New Zealand strategy at Westpac Bank in Auckland. “There’s a lot of position exiting going on.”

Almost all analysts had forecast a cut in the 1 per cent benchmark rate to a record-low 0.75 per cent, with futures markets having priced in a better-than-75 per cent chance of a cut as slack spending and a global slowdown held New Zealand’s economic growth at a six-year low.

The kiwi zoomed almost a cent higher to US$0.6403 (RM2.66) after the decision was announced, putting it on track for its steepest daily gain in a year. Yields on two-year New Zealand bonds jumped by their most in more than two years.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand said aggressive easing earlier this year meant current settings were appropriate, but left the door open for more stimulus.

The kiwi later gave up some of its gains to settle around US$0.6395, and moves elsewhere in Asian hours were modest.

“It’s all been about the New Zealand dollar,” said Commonwealth Bank FX analyst Joe Capurso.

Against other currencies, the US dollar was only a touch weaker after US President Donald Trump said in a speech overnight that a trade deal with China was “close,” but failed to provide any further details.

Hopes for an imminent deal to wind back tit-for-tat tariffs the world’s two largest economies have imposed on each other have lifted the dollar 1 per cent this week to a one-month high of 98.423 overnight against a basket of currencies.

It was a touch below that level in Asian trade, though moves were slight as investors waited for more concrete news.

Trump’s speech at the Economic Club of New York mostly reprised well-worn criticism of the US Federal Reserve for failing to cut interest rates deeply enough and rhetoric about China’s “cheating” on trade.

However his remark that a deal “could happen soon,” was enough to keep the dollar holding most of those recent gains.

“(It) was heavy on rhetoric and light on detail, leaving markets none the wiser,” National Australia Bank’s senior FX strategist Rodrigo Catril said in a note.

Against the Japanese yen the dollar was a touch weaker at ¥108.93 (RM4.15) — not far below the 5-1/2-month high of ¥109.48 it hit last week.

The dollar scaled a month-high against the euro overnight and steadied near that level at US$1.012 today.

China’s yuan weakened past the 7-per-dollar mark after the speech and fell a little further to 7.0212 per dollar in onshore trade today.

The British pound was steady at US$1.2850, after a brief boost from the Brexit Party’s decision not to contest Conservative-held seats at December’s election faded.

The Australian dollar was pinned at US$0.6837 by weak, but largely inline, wages data.

Later today, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is due to testify on the US economic outlook before the congressional Joint Economic Committee at 1600 GMT.

The first public hearings in Trump’s impeachment inquiry begin an hour earlier at 1500 GMT. — Reuters

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