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NZ dollar rises as traders await US employment data

The New Zealand dollar gained as investors look forward to official US employment data on Friday to gauge the strength of the world's biggest economy in the face of a falling oil prices.

The kiwi rose to 77.95 US cents at 5pm in Wellington from 77.69 cents at 8am, and 77.53 cents yesterday. The trade-weighted index advanced to 79.74 from 79.32 yesterday.

US private employers added 241,000 jobs in December according to the ADP Research Institute report, beating expectations, and raising optimism about the official non-farms payroll data on Friday in Washington. The greenback has been appreciating in recent months on heightened expectations the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates this year, though falling oil prices may slow the Fed's hand as it keeps a lid on inflation. Deflation in the Eurozone sapped appetite for the euro, which fell to a nine-year low against the greenback.

"The highlight on the agenda is payrolls tomorrow night," said Mark Johnson, senior dealer foreign exchange at OMF in Wellington. "Holiday mode is pervading the market this week, and the kiwi is at the mercy of offshore markets."

OMF's Johnson said the local currency will probably trade between 77 US cents and 78.10 cents in the near-term.

The local currency was little changed at 96.08 Australian cents from 9.98 cents yesterday, having reached a new post-float high during the Northern Hemisphere trading session. Investors have been attracted to New Zealand's currency over its Australian counterpart because of the higher yields on offer. That's fuelled by New Zealand's central bank has a bias towards higher interest rates, while the Reserve Bank of Australia is seen as cutting rates in the coming year.

OMF's Johnson said a growing divergence in interest rates would probably be needed For the kiwi to gain further against the Australian dollar, but if the RBA was to cut rates because of a global economic slowdown, that would probably force New Zealand's central bank to also lower its benchmark rate.

Bank of New Zealand economists today pushed out their expectations for the Reserve Bank's next interest rate hike until March 2016 as falling oil prices seem likely to delay price increases.

New Zealand's two-year swap rate fell to 3.79 at 5pm in Wellington from 3.8 yesterday, and the 10-year swap rate increased to 3.965 from 3.95.

The local currency rose to 93.26 yen from 92.28 yen yesterday, and gained to 4.8472 Chinese yuan from 4.8160 yuan. It increased to 65.91 euro cents, touching a 21-month high 65.93 cents, from 65.30 cents yesterday, and advanced 51.63 British pence from 51.20 pence.