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Dollar falls to month-low as investors reduce their holdings following RBNZ’s ‘on hold’ decision

The New Zealand dollar fell to a month-low as investors who had been holding the currency in anticipation the central bank may have hiked rates yesterday reduced their reserves.

The kiwi touched 81.22 US cents this morning, its lowest since Dec. 30. The local currency was trading at 81.41 cents at 8am in Wellington, from 81.78 cents at 5pm yesterday. The trade-weighted index slipped to 77.19 from 77.44 yesterday.

New Zealand's Reserve Bank yesterday kept the benchmark interest rate at an historic low 2.5 percent in a move anticipated by most economists. Still, traders had priced in about a 35 percent chance of a hike and many investors had refrained from selling down their holdings during turmoil in emerging markets in case they missed out on the benefit of a hike.

"The markets held off applying a risk discount to the New Zealand dollar because of the prospect that the RBNZ was going to increase the yield," said Sam Tuck, senior FX strategist at ANZ New Zealand. "With the RBNZ on hold until March when they are going to hike rates, and that is fully priced anyway, that freed up the market to apply a risk discount to the kiwi."

The New Zealand dollar touched 92.56 Australian cents this morning, its lowest in more than two weeks, and was at 92.70 cents at 8am in Wellington, from 93.60 cents yesterday.

"People have been selling kiwi-Aussie and buying Aussie-kiwi suggesting either the risk discount is going to come out of Aussie a bit as the emerging markets settle or the risk discount in kiwi needs to be applied if the emerging markets don't settle," said ANZ's Tuck. "That selling pressure in kiwi-Aussie has forced kiwi-US down as well."

Today, traders will be looking for further detail on the Reserve Bank's decision not to hike when governor Graeme Wheeler speaks to the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce at 1pm.

New Zealand's trade balance for December is scheduled for release at 10:45am. Expectations for a $500 million surplus may arrest the kiwi's decline, ANZ said.

The kiwi was little changed at 83.63 yen from 83.67 yen yesterday, at 60.08 euro cents from 59.91 cents and unchanged at 49.39 British pence.

(BusinessDesk)

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