Australian dollar hits 2-year high on jobs data, NZ$ steady

SYDNEY: The Australian dollar climbed to a two-year peak on Thursday after an upbeat jobs report fed chatter the central bank is creeping closer to a rate rise, while its New Zealand counterpart steadied near a five-month high.

The Australian dollar rose as high as $0.7992, a level last reached in May 2015 but was rebuffed by stiff chart resistance at 80 US cents. It was last at $0.7935, up a hefty 1.4 per cent for the week.

The Aussie has been rising since the beginning of the month aided by strong domestic economic data and a faltering US dollar.

On Thursday, the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said the unemployment rate held steady at 5.6 per cent as 14,000 new jobs were added.

Full-time jobs have risen by 115,400 in the past two months – the strongest back-to-back increase in 29 years, and a dramatic turnaround on 2016 when they fell by 23,100.

That led some to wager that rate hikes would begin by early 2018. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has left rates at 1.50 per cent since last August.

“The official labour force survey is now telling us that spare capacity is quickly being absorbed, much as the other measures of the labour market, such as job advertisements and the business surveys, have been telling us for some time,” HSBC Chief Economist Paul Bloxhan said.

“We see this, along with the lift in corporate profits and the minimum wage, as likely to support a pick-up in wages growth in H2 2017. We expect the RBA to lift its cash rate in Q1 2018.”

The New Zealand dollar slipped 0.2 per cent to $0.7344, not far from a five-month high of $0.7388 touched on Wednesday.

The currency is little changed this week, largely due to soft domestic inflation data that was seen as reducing the risk of a rate rise there anytime soon.

New Zealand government bonds slipped with yields gaining 2.5 basis points across the long-end of the curve.

Australian government bond futures eased, with the three-year bond contract off 2 ticks at 97.920. The 10-year contract edged 2.5 basis points lower to 97.2500.

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