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NZ dollar holds gains ahead of US Fed minutes

The New Zealand dollar held gains through local trading ahead of minutes to the last Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which investors will be watching for hints on when the US central bank will look to raise interest rates.

The kiwi traded at 75.36 US cents at 5pm in Wellington from 75.38 cents at 8am, up from 75.17 cents yesterday. The trade-weighted index advanced to 78.11 from 77.93.

Investors are waiting for the minutes to the last FOMC meeting for a steer on when the Fed will look to raise interest rates from the near-zero policy its been running since the global financial crisis. Momentum in the US economy has given the Fed more impetus to move away from its extraordinarily loose policy, having wrapped up its bond-buying programme last year, and policymakers said the growth was on track after the January meeting.

"The FOMC meeting minutes tomorrow morning are what the market is really focusing on - people are going to be watching for any indication of interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve," said Michael Johnston, senior dealer at HiFX in Auckland. "The kiwi's in a short-term uptrend and can go a little bit higher, but it's not a reversal of the bigger trend on the downside."

HiFX's Johnston said the kiwi may push up to 76 US cents, but will struggle to get much higher.

The local currency got a small boost from an increase in dairy prices at Fonterra Cooperative Group's GlobalDairyTrade auction, though Johnston said the small volume sold limited the gain.

Trading was quieter than usual with the start of the week-long Chinese New Year holiday.

The kiwi climbed to 4.7135 Chinese yuan at 5pm in Wellington from 4.7059 yuan yesterday. It was little changed at 96.33 Australian cents from 96.35 cents yesterday, and gained to 89.76 yen from 89.14 yen.

The local currency was little changed at 66.07 euro cents from 66.15 cents yesterday, and rose to 49.08 British pence from 48.88 pence.

The two-year swap rate increased to 3.5825 from 3.55 yesterday, and the 10-year swap rate 3.8025 from 3.7275.