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Australian, New Zealand dollars up sharply for week, markets absorb bond flood

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The Australian and New Zealand dollars were holding hefty gains for the week on Thursday as markets wagered a peak for the Covid-19 pandemic could be on the horizon, even as the death toll mounted across the globe.

[SYDNEY] The Australian and New Zealand dollars were holding hefty gains for the week on Thursday as markets wagered a peak for the Covid-19 pandemic could be on the horizon, even as the death toll mounted across the globe.

The chance, no matter how slim, that economic lockdowns might start to be loosened soon was enough to lift equities and commodity prices, and boost growth-leveraged currencies.

That left the Aussie up at US$0.6223, having climbed 3.8 per cent for the week so far and well away from last month's 17-year trough at US$0.5510. It also cleared major resistance at US$0.6215, which could allow a run to the next target at US$0.6326.

The kiwi has added almost 2.4 per cent for the week to reach US$0.6002 , but still faces a tough chart barrier at US$0.6067. Markets will be closed on Friday and Monday for holidays.

The Aussie quickly shrugged off S&P Global's decision to downgrade Australia's outlook to negative given it would be a year at least before the triple-A rating might be cut.

The move has had little apparent impact on demand for debt. The Australian government sold A$3 billion on notes on Thursday alone and the auctions all drew solid bids, as have all the enlarged bond sales this week.

Three-year yields were a shade higher for the week at 0.28 per cent, but aggressive buying by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) kept them in line with its target of 0.25 per cent.

Yields on 10-year paper rose a sharper 20 basis points for the week to 0.97 per cent, partly in line with a move in US Treasuries and partly because the RBA had signalled it might slow bond purchases once markets had stabilised.

New Zealand is also planning to borrow a lot more, with bond issuance for 2019/20 almost doubling to NZ$25 billion and over half of that to be sold by the end of June.

Kimberley Mundy, an economist at CBA, estimates the government will have to raise NZ$90 billion by 2024 which would more than double debt to over 40 per cent of GDP.

The central bank is helping keep the market liquid by offering to buy NZ$1.8 billion of bonds next week, on top of NZ$1.8 billion purchased this week.

Yet this is unlikely to appease the ratings agencies.

"We expect the outlook on New Zealand's sovereign credit rating will be downgraded during the current recession," she said, but added such a change was likely to have only a fleeting impact on the kiwi much as it did on the Aussie.

In the long runs both currencies were driven by global economic growth and trends in the US currency, and there the outlook was none too bright.

"As a result, we expect more NZD weakness in coming months irrespective of changes to the credit rating and/or outlook on the rating."

REUTERS

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