NZ dollar remains below 69 US cents, sidelined in jittery markets

New Zealand coins. Photo: John Sefton

The New Zealand dollar held below 69 US cents but was largely sidelined as markets remain jittery about the global economic impact of rising trade tensions.

The kiwi traded at 68.92 US cents as at 5pm in Wellington from 68.94 cents at 8am and 69.01 cents yesterday. The trade-weighted index was at 73.30 from 73.36 yesterday.

Asian equity markets tracked Wall Street lower after reports the US Treasury Department was drafting curbs that would block companies with at least 25 percent Chinese ownership from buying US tech firms. While US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the proposed restrictions on foreign investment in US technology would not just be confined to China, White House trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro sought to downplay Mnuchin’s remarks. He was quoted by CNBC television as saying "with respect to other countries, there's absolutely nothing on the table".

Sheldon Slabbert, a trader at CMC Markets, said against the risk-averse backdrop trading in the kiwi has been quiet. According to Slabbert, up until recently the kiwi moved in a 120-to-130 basis point daily range but now that range is hovering around 50-to-60 points and volumes are quite light.

With the US Federal Reserve tightening monetary policy and the Reserve Bank firmly on hold, "our yields aren't quite as attractive, so flows are drying up. There's less interest to be here," Slabbert said. He noted that the yen carry trade, something that has traditionally shored up the kiwi's value, "is going elsewhere for less country risk."

A carry trade is where an investor uses funds borrowed in a country with low interest rates such as Japan to invest where interest rates offer a better return.

Slabbert said the main event for the kiwi this week will be Thursday's central bank rate decision. The bank is expected to keep the official cash rate at 1.75 percent but the statement will be closely scrutinised for any clues on future direction.

The kiwi traded at 4.5174 yuan from 4.5080 yuan yesterday and at 92.96 Australian cents from 92.92 cents yesterday.

The local currency was at 75.45 yen from 75.54 yen yesterday and fell to 51.87 British pence from 52.21 pence. It declined to 58.83 euro cents from 59.21 cents yesterday.

New Zealand's two-year swap rate fell 1 basis point to 2.23 percent while 10-year swaps fell 2 basis points to 3.08 percent.