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Australia and NZ dollars fall for third day, data in focus

[SYDNEY] The Australian dollar slipped for a third session on Monday after repeatedly failing to break above key chart resistance at 77 US cents, with focus shifting to a slew of data and central bank events this week.

The Australian dollar was 0.18-per cent lower at US$0.7660, but remained near a 3-1/2 month high of US$0.7732 touched last week.

The Aussie has flirted with the 77 US cents mark for most of February and finally breached it twice last week only for those gains to fizzle away.

The currency is up 6.6 per cent so far this year, led by a massive rally in the price of iron ore - Australia's No1 export earner - and a weakening US dollar. "The current 'death valley' at US$0.7700-US$0.7750 remains intact, suggesting that investors continue to grow cautious of not only the long Aussie position overhang, but also the sustainability of iron ore prices," said Stephen Innes, senior FX trader for broker OANDA.

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Investors are bracing for an action-packed week, with minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia's February meeting due on Tuesday followed by data on wages growth, construction and capex, as well as two appearances by governor Philip Lowe.

Traders expect Lowe to stick to his optimistic tune, given a run of positive data lately. "I think the tail risk would be for a more hawkish lean from the RBA than the market has priced in, but at a minimum, there's little impetus for the RBA to veer from its current neutral tack," Mr Innes added.

Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand dollar stood at US$0.7174, down for a third straight day, though trading was expected to be light due to a public holiday in the United States.

The Kiwi is down about 1.9 per cent so far this month, with most of that fall coming after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand signalled it would keep rates at a record low for two years, pulling the rug on bets of a rate hike later in 2017.

The main event on the Kiwi's calendar this week is the global dairy price auction held in the early hours of Wednesday. That is expected to show an ongoing recovery in the price of milk, New Zealand's top goods export.

New Zealand government bonds gained, sending yields 1.5 basis points lower.

Australian government bond futures rose, with the three-year bond contract up 2 ticks at 97.960. The 10-year contract added 2 ticks to 97.185.