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Australia, New Zealand dollars doze through Brexit drama, eye China stimulus

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The Australian and New Zealand dollars marked time on Wednesday with investors relieved the latest episode of the Brexit drama had come and gone without causing convulsions in global markets.

[SYDNEY] The Australian and New Zealand dollars marked time on Wednesday with investors relieved the latest episode of the Brexit drama had come and gone without causing convulsions in global markets.

Sentiment got a fillip when China's central bank made the largest ever net injection of cash into the financial system, a day after promising more support for the economy.

Some analysts believe Beijing could also deliver 2 trillion yuan (S$401.55 billion) worth of cuts in taxes and fees as part of a stimulus package.

The Aussie dollar was just a fraction lower at US$0.7194, snuggled between support at US$0.7180 and resistance in the US$0.7226/35 area.

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The kiwi likewise was a shade easier at US$0.6810, having trod a tight US$0.6801/US$0.6846 range overnight.

All the action had been in sterling, which slid as far as US$1.7634 ahead of the parliamentary vote on Brexit, only to rebound all the way back to A$1.7859 after it.

Lawmakers defeated Prime Minister Theresa May's EU divorce deal by a crushing margin of 230 votes, the worst drubbing in modern British history.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called a vote of no confidence in Mrs May's government for later on Wednesday, but the general expectation was that it would fail.

"The market apparently thinks that at this point, no agreement is better than some agreement, because it buys time and increases the possibility that the country will change its mind entirely about Brexit," said Marshall Gittler, chief strategist at ACLS Global.

"That's the best route, but I don't discount the possibility of politicians choosing the less-than-optimal route."

At home, data suggested consumer spending may have hit a soft spot.

A survey of Australian consumer confidence suffered the largest monthly drop in three years as respondents turned gloomy on the economy and their own finances.

The Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank index of consumer sentiment slid 4.7 per cent in January amid broad-based weakness.

That will not be welcomed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), which had pointed to above-average sentiment as one reason for optimism on the economy.

In New Zealand, data showed electronic retail card spending dropped a sharp 2.3 per cent in December. The series covers about 68 per cent of core retail sales in the country.

Some of the pullback was due to a fall in petrol prices, but other sectors also saw weakness, with the largest decline in spending on durables since late 2010.

Bond markets were quiet, with Australian the three-year bond futures up 1 tick at 98.230. The 10-year contract rose 1 tick to 97.7200.

Yields on New Zealand government bonds dipped around 1 basis point across the curve. 

REUTERS