Dollar weakens ahead of Chinese data which may show slowing economic growth

The New Zealand dollar weakened ahead of the release of Chinese data today which is expected to show a slowdown in Asia's largest economy, the country's largest trading partner. Locally, figures are expected to show inflation is accelerating.

The kiwi softened to 86.39 US cents at 8am in Wellington from 86.50 cents at 5pm yesterday. The trade-weighted index edged lower to 80.22 from 80.27 yesterday.

Investors were nonplussed by the two main events overnight, a speech by the new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen which elicited no new information, and a forecast decline in global dairy prices. Today, the focus is on a slew of data releases from China with some investors anticipating Chinese gross domestic product to soften more than economists expect.

"The potential big events turned out to be neutral and that's why nothing really moved significantly last night," said Imre Speizer, senior market strategist at Westpac Banking Corp. in New Zealand. "The market is looking ahead to today's Chinese data. That's going to be the big event of today. It's rumoured to be weaker than the consensus estimate."

Economists expect the Chinese economy expanded at a 7.3 percent annual pace in the first quarter, the slowest pace in five years and down from a previous rate of 7.7 percent. China also publishes March data on retail sales, industrial production and fixed asset investment, all scheduled for release at 2pm New Zealand time.

"G10 FX will be at the mercy of Chinese data, particularly over the next 24 hours," Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, said in a note. "The pace of Chinese growth will not only affect commodity currencies but could also have a significant impact on overall risk appetite and in turn other major currencies such as the dollar, euro and British pound."

The prospect of slower Chinese growth also weighed on the Australian dollar overnight. China is Australia's largest trading partner and the Aussie is considered a proxy for the Chinese currency.

The New Zealand dollar gained to 92.31 Australian cents from 92.10 cents yesterday.

In New Zealand today, the focus is on first quarter inflation figures scheduled for release at 10:45am. Economists are expecting a 0.5 percent rise in the quarter and it would take a surprise of 20 basis points to impact the currency, said Westpac's Speizer.

The kiwi slipped to 51.66 British pence from 51.74 pence yesterday, dropped to 62.55 euro cents from 62.60 cents and weakened to 87.98 yen from 88.15 yen.

(BusinessDesk)

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