Dollar holds gains as Yellen appearances stoke expectations of more on US rates

 The New Zealand dollar held its gains of last week against the greenback before public statements by Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen amid speculation she may clarify the central bank's view on the start of any interest rate hikes in the US.

The kiwi traded at 86.81 US cents at 5pm in Wellington, little changed from the start of the day or the Friday close in New York. It was at 86.37 cents on Friday in Wellington. The trade-weighted index was little changed from 8am at 80.45, up from 80.02 on Friday.

The New Zealand dollar surged to a three-year high after the release last week of minutes of the Fed's last policy meeting, which showed policy makers were concerned that projections for an interest rate rise were overstated and could be misconstrued by the market.

Yellen is scheduled to present her opening remarks by video conference to the Financial Markets Conference in Georgia tomorrow and deliver a speech on monetary policy and the economic recovery on Wednesday in New York.

"There's a good chance of some elaboration (on the minutes) and a bit of backtracking on that, some softening of stance," said Imre Speizer, senior market strategist at Westpac Banking Corp. That "might just pull the US dollar back a teeny bit and keep the kiwi up at these levels."

Speizer expects the New Zealand dollar to trade in a range of 86.20 US cents to 87.40 cents in the next 24 hours.

For the week, the local currency may trade between 85.30 US cents and 87.80 cents, according to a BusinessDesk survey of 10 traders and strategists. Four predict the kiwi will fall this week, while one expects it to gain and five see it largely unchanged. It recently traded at 86.75 US cents.

Key data out of New Zealand this week will be the consumers' price index, which is expected to show annual inflation rose at a 1.7 percent rate in the first quarter, the fastest pace since the fourth quarter of 2011. If inflation comes in as expected it should keep intact expectations that the Reserve Bank will raise the official cash rate a quarter point to 3 percent next week, which will be broadly supportive for the currency.

The kiwi traded at 62.64 euro cents from 62.70 euro cents at 8am in Wellington and from 62.16 cents at 5pm on Friday. It traded at 92.39 Australian cents from 92.43 cents at the start of the day and 92.09 cents on Friday.

The kiwi was at 51.86 British pence, up from 51.50 pence on Friday and traded at 88.22 yen, down from 87.77 yen on Friday.

(BusinessDesk)

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USD 0.7845 0.0017 0.22%
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NI225 15009.8 15044.3 14936.5 -0.13%