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NZ dollar muted as investors await Fed chair Yellen's testimony

The New Zealand dollar was little changed as investors await US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen's semi-annual testimony to US lawmakers for clues as to when the world's largest economy may raise interest rates.

The kiwi was trading at 75.20 US cents at 8am in Wellington, from 75.13 cents at 5pm yesterday. The trade-weighted index was at 78.05 from 77.92 yesterday.

Investors are reluctant to make big bets ahead of Yellen's testimony on the US economy and monetary policy before the senate banking committee, which will be closely watched for any indications on the timing of an interest rate hike. Yellen's comments follow the release of the Fed's minutes to its January meeting which showed that the majority of Federal Open Market Committee members are in no rush to increase rates. She is set to testify in the US today and tomorrow.

"We expect market moves to be muted ahead of Fed chair Yellen's testimony," Bank of New Zealand currency strategist Raiko Shareef said in a note. "We expect it to be, ultimately, US dollar positive. The FOMC will not want the divergence between the market's expectations of the first rate hike, and its own views, to grow. Over the past two months, Fed speakers have consistently pointed to a mid-2015 rate hike. The market currently expects it only by October."

In New Zealand today, traders are awaiting the Reserve Bank's quarterly survey of inflation expectations over the next two years, scheduled for publication at 3pm. The survey of business managers and professionals is expected to show a decline from the previous report.

The New Zealand dollar advanced to 96.39 Australian cents from 95.90 cents yesterday, gained to 66.26 euro cents from 65.99 cents, slipped to 48.63 British pence from 48.85 pence and was little changed at 89.45 yen from 89.37 yen.