Australian, NZ dollars dumped for yen, but bonds in demand

SYDNEY • The Australian and New Zealand dollars were heading for steep weekly losses on the safe haven yen yesterday as the risk of a partial shutdown of the US government piled pressure on already shaky equity markets.

They fared a little better on the US dollar, which had troubles of its own from political uncertainty to sharply lower Treasury yields.

The yen and Swiss franc were the big gainers as US President Donald Trump refused to sign a Bill funding the government, setting up a last-minute showdown with Democrats in the Senate.

That left the Aussie dollar pinned at 79.21 yen, having shed 1 per cent overnight. It was down almost 2.7 per cent for the week, the worst performance since April 2016.

The kiwi was off 2 per cent for the week so far at 75.48 yen and near its lowest since early last month.

The threat of a US government shutdown over Christmas came as investors were already fretting that the economy would not be able to withstand further rate rises from the Federal Reserve.

That uncertainty helped the Aussie dollar steady for the moment on the US dollar at US$0.7114, though it was still 0.8 per cent lower on the week.

 

The kiwi edged up to US$0.6788, from a trough of US$0.6725, to leave it off 0.1 per cent for the week so far.

That was a relatively robust performance given the knock it took on Tuesday when domestic data on economic growth badly missed market forecasts.

Investors responded by taking 10-year bond yields to their lowest since October 2016 at 2.636 per cent as they priced in a more dovish stance from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ).

"The market's estimates for the RBNZ's policy have changed radically," said chief strategist Marshall Gittler at ACLS Global.

"On Tuesday, the market saw a 32 per cent chance of a rate hike next year and no chance at all of a cut. Now, it sees only a 3 per cent chance of a hike next year and an 8 percent chance of a cut."

Australian bonds also had a barnstormer of a week, with 10-year cash yields reaching their lowest since mid-2017 at 2.378 per cent.

The 10-year bond future was up 9 ticks for the week at 97.6250, while the three-year contract added 14 ticks to 98.150.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2018, with the headline 'Australian, NZ dollars dumped for yen, but bonds in demand'. Print Edition | Subscribe