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NZ dollar gets a lift from China

Rebecca Howard

The New Zealand dollar got a lift from data indicating the Chinese economy - the country's main trading partner - remains on a strong footing but jitters about a global trade war may knock the Kiwi off its perch.

The New Zealand dollar traded at 73.39 as at 5pm in Wellington versus 73.22 US cents as at 8am in Wellington and 73.12 cents late Tuesday. The trade-weighted index was at 75.07 from 74.92.

Chinese industrial production, fixed-asset investment and retail sales all came in higher than market expectations, according to Dow Jones Newswires. Value-added industrial output, for example, expanded 7.2 per cent in January and February from a year earlier, compared with a 6.2 per cent on-year increase in December. Markets had been expecting a 6.1 per cent lift. China provides combined data for January and February to limit distortions caused by the Lunar New Year holiday.

"Today's data are broadly upbeat and suggest that the Chinese economy had a strong start to the year," said Capital Economics in a note.

Martin Rudings, senior dealer at OMF, also said the data was "quite strong" and likely gave the Kiwi a lift.

He said the New Zealand dollar may not stay strong for long, in particular after news that US President Donald Trump is also looking to impose tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese imports, targeted at information technology, consumer electronics and telecom.

"I think there is a risk-off trade building" given the possibility of a global trade war," he said.

"I think there is a background risk there, that markets are trying to brush off."

Looking ahead, Mr Rudings said markets will be watching for Thursday's fourth-quarter gross domestic product data, with economists expecting a 0.8 per cent quarter-on-quarter expansion, according to Bloomberg. Any upside surprise will benefit the kiwi.

The Kiwi rose to 78.11 yen from 77.91 yen Tuesday and gained to 93.19 Australian cents from 92.85 cents. It fell to 59.16 euro cents from 59.30 cents and dropped to 52.48 British pence from 52.60 pence. It traded at 4.6342 yuan from 4.6244 yuan.

New Zealand's two-year swap rate fell 2 basis point to 2.24 per cent and the 10-year swap rate fell 4 basis points to 3.21 per cent.