Kiwi holds gains as muted US wage growth weighs on Fed rate outlook

Low wage inflation is seen as reducing the need for the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates aggressively.

(BusinessDesk) - The New Zealand dollar held its gains as weaker-than-expected US wage growth weighed on the outlook for US interest rates, while domestic economic data and trade uncertainty remain the focus for local investors.

The kiwi traded at 72.89 US cents as at 8am in Wellington from 72.80 cents on Friday in New York, up from 72.65 cents at the local close last week. The trade-weighted index was at 74.79 from 74.70 last week.

The US dollar index edged lower after figures showed US average hourly earnings rose at a slower annual pace than anticipated of 2.6 percent, while at the same time the world's biggest economy added 313,000 jobs last month, a bigger increase than projected. Low wage inflation is seen as reducing the need for the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates aggressively, supporting demand for risk-sensitive assets.

New US tariffs on steel and aluminium are stoking fears of a trade war, although Australia has secured an exemption and New Zealand officials are also seeking similar treatment. New Zealand's fourth-quarter gross domestic product is the main focus domestically, with economists predicting quarterly growth accelerated to 0.8 percent from 0.6 percent in September.

"The kiwi continues to hold in tight ranges. That picture is not expected to materially change today before the data pulse picks up later in the week," ANZ Bank New Zealand rural economist Con Williams said in a note. "Donald Trump looking to do side deals on newly imposed tariffs could support the AUD lifting the kiwi at the same time, but the local focus will be Q4 GDP growth later in the week, which should support the NZD too."

Local data today include January accommodation figures.

The kiwi was little changed at 77.69 yen form 77.70 yen on Friday in New York and traded at 92.79 Australian cents form 92.64 cents. It edged up to 59.18 euro cents from 59.10 cents last week and increased to 52.61 British pence form 52.52 pence. The local currency gained to 4.6116 Chinese yuan from 4.6052 yuan last week.