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NZ dollar buoyed by upbeat Chinese trade data after commodity drop

The New Zealand dollar was buoyed by better than expected Chinese trade figures after plunging when investors ditched commodity-linked currencies on falling prices for raw materials.

The kiwi traded at 77.90 US cents at 5pm in Wellington, up from 77.74 cents at 8am, though still down from 78.54 cents yesterday. The trade-weighted index declined to 79.24 from 79.77 yesterday.

China reported a trade surplus of US$49.6 billion in December, beating expectations, as exports grew 9.7 percent and imports a smaller than expected 2.4 percent, according to government figures. That bolstered demand for the New Zealand and Australian currencies, which had been caught in a global sell-off after falling oil prices continued to weigh on other commodity prices and pushed the Bloomberg Commodity Index of 22 energy, agriculture and metal prices to a 12-year low.

"The overall trade balance wasn't too off, but the fall in imports was smaller than some expected and exports were better than expected," said Michael Johnston, senior dealer at HiFX in Auckland. "That helped the Aussie grind up and dragged the kiwi along for the ride."

HiFX's Johnston said the local currency is reasonably range-bound at the moment and following overseas trends, though he still expects it to decline against the greenback over the course of the year.

The kiwi traded at 95.10 Australian cents at 5pm in Wellington from 95.22 cents yesterday, and Johnston said he expects the local currency will continue to nudge lower after climbing to a high against the Australian dollar during thin holiday trading.

"We're seeing normality resume - the talk of parity is just fantasy and it's hurting a lot of exporters," Johnston said. "It's in rarefied air even where we are at the moment."

The kiwi dropped to 91.81 yen from 92.89 yen yesterday, and fell to 4.8307 Chinese yuan from 4.8693. The local currency declined to 65.73 euro cents from 66.24 cents yesterday, and decreased to 51.31 British pence from 51.79 pence.

The two-year swap rate fell to 3.73 from 3.765 yesterday, and the 10-year swap rate dropped to 3.88 from 3.97.