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Australia, NZ dollars near recent lows on China, iron ore

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The Australian dollar slumped to multi-month lows against major currencies on Monday after soft Chinese economic data and sliding iron ore prices knocked the wind out of commodity currencies.

[SYDNEY] The Australian dollar slumped to multi-month lows against major currencies on Monday after soft Chinese economic data and sliding iron ore prices knocked the wind out of commodity currencies.

The Australian dollar, often used as a liquid proxy for China plays, dipped to its lowest in two-and-a-half months at US$0.7236, before recovering modestly to US$0.7283.

The euro and pound rose to their highest since mid-February against the Aussie , while the kiwi rose to a peak not seen since Feb 29.

Much of the pressure followed news at the weekend showing Chinese investment, factory output and retail sales all missed forecasts, adding to doubts about whether the economy is stabilising. The Antipodean currencies are sensitive to news out of China, a top export market for both Australia and New Zealand.

The Aussie has tumbled 4 per cent so far this month, largely after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) cut rates to a record low of 1.75 per cent.

Data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed speculators reduced long Aussie positions to 82,774 contracts the week ended May 10, from around 100,000 the week before.

Yet, they were still net long 38,158, suggesting the Aussie had room to fall. "In response to the RBA's downgrade of inflation outlook, speculative funds took out USD1 billion of net AUD longs to US$2.8 billion, the lowest net AUD longs in four weeks," ANZ said in a note.

Also undermining the Aussie were sliding prices for iron ore, Australia's top export earner. The mineral plumbed on Friday its lowest in two-months.

The New Zealand dollar edged down to US$0.6762, down from US$0.6775 as global risk aversion lent strength to the US dollar.

"The kiwi starts the week on the back foot," ANZ analysts said.

"Despite decent local activity data, global developments remain the defining factor for NZD/USD."

Growth in New Zealand's services sector picked up in April for its strongest monthly expansion in 2016, a survey showed on Monday, though this had little effect on the New Zealand dollar.

Analysts expected the kiwi to trade between US$0.6680 and US$0.6840.

New Zealand government bonds gained, sending yields two basis points lower at the short end of the curve and four basis points lower at the long end of the curve.

Australian government bond futures scaled record highs, with the three-year bond contract up two ticks at 98.470. The 10-year contract added four ticks to 97.7700 in a bullish flattening of the curve. The 20-year contract edged up half a tick to 97.1400.

The premium between Australian and US two-year cash bonds stood at a decade-low of 83 basis points. A break of key support around 79 basis points could see a retracement all the way to 44 basis points, the 2006 trough.

REUTERS