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New Zealand dollar stumbles on jobs disappointment, bonds rally

Reuters logo Reuters 7/02/2019 Swati Pandey
a close up of text on a black background: Illustration photo of a New Zealand Dollar note © Reuters/Thomas White Illustration photo of a New Zealand Dollar note

The New Zealand dollar skidded to a two-week low on Thursday after data showed the country's employment growth stalled, a disappointing outcome that led investors to narrow the odds of a rate cut.

The New Zealand dollar fell to $0.6774, a level not seen since Jan. 25. It was last at $0.6776

Kiwi 2-year bond yield declined to 1.67 percent compared to the official cash rate of 1.75 percent, while bond prices rose across the curve.

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"Looking forward, growth momentum has faded and it looks increasingly difficult for the economy to grow above trend from here," analysts at ANZ wrote in a note.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has left its official cash rate (OCR) at a record low 1.75 percent since November 2016. It has signalled steady rates through 2019 and into 2020, while noting both upside and downside risks to its growth and inflation projections.

Analysts now expect a more cautious tone from the RBNZ at its first policy meeting of the year next week, led by softer domestic data recently and slowing global growth led by the bitter Sino-U.S. trade war.

"In our view, the RBNZ will eventually need to cut the OCR, but the move to a more overtly dovish stance may take some time to unfold," ANZ said.

Thursday's dismal employment data sent the kiwi skidding from a one-month top against its Australian cousin.

The cross rate had climbed to as high as A$0.9614 on Wednesday after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor caught some investors off guard by shifting to a neutral stance on policy from a previous tightening bias.

It was last at A$0.9531.

"The Kiwi/Aussie currency cross ...had found some wind beneath tiny wings," said Kiwibank Chief Economist Jarrod Kerr.

"The Aussie economy is cooling, and the housing market is falling. Calls for RBA rate cuts are growing louder and louder," Kerr added.

Against the greenback, the Aussie was at a two-week trough of $0.7102.

Australian government bond futures rose again as investors started pricing in a real chance of a rate cut later this year. The three-year bond contract rose to 98.405, its highest since November 2016. The 10-year contract was at a more than one-month peak of 97.885.

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