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NZ dollar slips from 2-1/2 week peak, Aussie near 5-month lows

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The New Zealand dollar came off a 2-1/2 week top on Wednesday after the country's central bank sounded surprisingly relaxed about the housing market as it loosened lending restrictions, while the Australian dollar was stuck near five-month lows.

[SYDNEY] The New Zealand dollar came off a 2-1/2 week top on Wednesday after the country's central bank sounded surprisingly relaxed about the housing market as it loosened lending restrictions, while the Australian dollar was stuck near five-month lows.

The kiwi dollar initially popped up to US$0.6930 as traders wagered the easing of loan-to-value restrictions by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) could boost house prices and spark inflation.

But the currency soon slipped to US$0.6890, drifting further away from Tuesday's US$0.6945, the highest since Nov 13.

"There was some knee-jerk reaction in the currency because generally people thought the restrictions were removed earlier than many had anticipated," said Nick Tufley, chief economist at ASB Bank.

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"But we're not likely to see inflation outlook shifting in a material way. The RBNZ is only comfortable in lifting the LVR restriction because it is confident the housing market will still remain muted."

Mr Tufley said the implications for interest rates are "pretty limited", adding that the RBNZ was likely to keep rates at a record low 1.75 per cent for a long time.

Policymakers expect home prices will also be constrained by the government's move to ban foreign purchases of existing homes from early 2018.

House prices have risen more than 50 per cent nationally in the past decade, and almost doubled in Auckland, but recently have come off the boil as a slowing economy and lending restrictions curbed demand.

Across the Tasman Sea, the Australian dollar paused after three days of losses to linger around US$0.7595. That was not far from last week's US$0.7532, the lowest since mid-2017.

The Aussie's appeal as a higher-yielding carry trade currency is fading as short-term Treasury yields tick higher.

The spread between Australian government two-year debt over US notes has turned negative, from a premium of as much as 60 basis points in September.

The US dollar has fared better this week than the past three, led by stronger economic data.

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

Australian government bond futures were mixed, with the three-year bond contract up one tick at 98.100. The 10-year contract was flat at 97.490.

REUTERS

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