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Aussie dollar, yuan sink on China export slump


THE Australian dollar and kiwi dollar, gauges of global risk appetite, fell on Monday on fears of a slowdown in China's economy prompted by a contraction in Chinese exports.

Market sentiment swung negative after data showed that China's December exports unexpectedly fell, pointing to weakness in the world's second-largest economy and a gloomy growth picture.

The data took its toll on the Australian dollar and New Zealand dollar, which both fell more than 0.4 per cent.

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China is Australia's largest trade partner and negative sentiment about its economy does not bode well for the Aussie dollar.

Fears of a Chinese slowdown also hit the offshore yuan. The currency rallied 1.5 per cent against the dollar last week, its biggest weekly rise since January 2017, seemingly incongruent with recent sluggishness in China's economy.

"The rally is largely due to the optimism surrounding the trade talks," said Ulrich Leuchtmann, head of FX at Commerzbank.

"But while momentum suggests the rally looks unstoppable, the currency has little ground to appreciate further from an economic fundamentals perspective," he added.

Monday's risk-off mood led traders to buy the safe-haven Japanese yen, which rose 0.4 per cent versus the greenback.

The dollar index was at 95.56, down 0.1 per cent.

"With the Federal Reserve signalling a pause in the tightening cycle... we don't expect today's China trade numbers to have a long lasting negative impact on sentiment," said Chris Turner, head of foreign exchange strategy at ING in London.

After a stellar 2018 year in which the greenback gained 4.3 per cent as the US central bank hiked rates four times, investors are now expecting the Fed to halt its monetary tightening policy.

Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated last week that the Fed has the ability to be patient on monetary policy given that inflation remains stable.

The euro on Monday was relatively unchanged at US$1.1466. The single currency lost 0.3 per cent on Friday after data showed that Italy, the euro zone's third-largest economy, was at risk of recession. Elsewhere, the pound was marginally lower at US$1.2826 at the start of what is expected to be a highly volatile week.

British Prime Minister Theresa May must win a vote in parliament on Tuesday to get her Brexit deal approved or risk a chaotic exit for Britain from the European Union.

The numbers are not in Mrs May's favour and her chances of winning the vote look slim. REUTERS