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Australia, NZ dollars boosted by US hopes for trade deal with China

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The Australian dollar hovered near its highest in almost seven weeks while the New Zealand dollar also held firm, helped by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin voicing optimism for a trade deal with China to end a tariff war.

[SYDNEY] The Australian dollar hovered near its highest in almost seven weeks while the New Zealand dollar also held firm, helped by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin voicing optimism for a trade deal with China to end a tariff war.

The Australian dollar was last at US$0.7172, not far from Friday's US$0.7193 which was its highest level since late February. The Aussie ended last week 0.9 per cent higher.

Australia will particularly welcome an end to the Sino-US trade war as China is Australia's largest export market.

Mr Mnuchin said on Saturday said that he hoped US-China trade talks were approaching a final lap, while strong Chinese export and bank loan data too boosted confidence in the global economy.

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Further whetting risk appetite, Reuters exclusively reported on Monday that US negotiators have tempered demands that China curb industrial subsidies as a condition for a trade deal.

The focus will shift to domestic news this week with the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) minutes of April meeting due Tuesday and jobs data on Thursday.

There are political uncertainties too for the Aussie with polls show the incumbent Liberal-National coalition is headed for a defeat in a federal election next month.

"The AUD is susceptible to significant weak-side surprises in this week's labour market data or next week's first-quarter (inflation) release," forex strategists at the National Australia Bank said in a note.

"We still view an expected Sino-US trade deal and with that improved prospects for stronger growth in China and elsewhere as a likely net AUD-positive, including via providing support for commodity prices and underpinning what is admittedly already supportive risk sentiment."

Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand dollar rose for a second straight day to $0.6776, drifting away from a recent three-month trough of US$0.6714.

The currency added 0.2 per cent last week for its second consecutive weekly gain.

The kiwi was knocked lower in late March after New Zealand's central bank wrongfooted traders by taking a surprise dovish turn and indicating the next move in rates could well be down.

As global risk appetite improved, safe-haven bonds came under pressure.

New Zealand government bonds eased, sending yields about four basis points higher in the long end of the curve.

Australian government bond futures were also weaker, with the three-year bond contract off four ticks at 98.55. The 10-year contract slipped 6.5 ticks to 98.045.

REUTERS