FOREX-Kiwi firm near 3-year high; greenback awaits Fed minutes

Wed Jul 9, 2014 1:11am EDT

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By Ian Chua and Masayuki Kitano

SYDNEY/SINGAPORE, July 9 (Reuters) - The New Zealand dollar hovered near a three-year high on Wednesday, buoyed by the prospect of a sovereign rating upgrade, while the U.S. dollar held steady ahead of minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting.

Against a basket of major currencies, the greenback traded at 80.161, having pulled back from a 1-1/2-week high of 80.359 set earlier this week.

Against the yen, the dollar has fallen back to levels seen before the solid nonfarm payrolls report last Thursday as a fall in U.S. Treasury yields from last week's highs dampened demand.

On Wednesday the dollar held steady near 101.59 yen, having touched a one-week low of about 101.45 yen earlier.

Minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting are due later in the day.

The greenback might bounce versus the yen if the minutes turn out to be hawkish, but its gains may be modest, judging by the soft tone versus the yen in recent sessions, said Masafumi Yamamoto, market strategist for Praevidentia Strategy in Tokyo.

"I think the contents of the minutes might turn out to be dollar-positive," Yamamoto said, adding that one focus was Fed policymakers' views on recent inflation trends.

"Whichever data you look at, the inflation rate (in the United States) has been rising and I'm not sure that can be dismissed as just noise," Yamamoto said.

In the 12 months through May, the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, which excludes food and energy, increased 1.5 percent, the biggest gain since February last year. However, that is below the Fed's 2 percent goal.

The dollar has technical support at levels around 101.35 yen, where a trendline drawn through its May low near 100.80 yen and late June trough near 101.24 yen comes in.

"A break and close under this on a daily basis will set dollar/yen for a test under 101.00," said Jeffrey Halley, a currency trader for Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore.

The euro inched up 0.1 percent to $1.3619. Speeches by European Central Bank officials including President Mario Draghi will be closely watched later on Wednesday.

NEW ZEALAND DOLLAR

The New Zealand dollar edged up 0.1 percent to $0.8795 , after rising as far as $0.8806 on Tuesday, bringing into focus its post-float high around $0.8840 set in August 2011.

It broke above a recent $0.8714-0.8795 range after Fitch revised its outlook on New Zealand's AA-rating to positive from stable, citing progress in fiscal consolidation.

"This is a clear positive for the New Zealand dollar in both the near and medium term," said Annette Beacher, head of Asia Pacific research at TDSecurities.

"A shift to a positive outlook does not necessarily guarantee a credit upgrade to AA+, but the odds have shifted decisively in that favour."

The kiwi has been supported by its yield advantage, which is set to grow even bigger later in the month when the Reserve Bank of New Zealand is likely to raise its 3.25 percent cash rate by another quarter point. (Editing by Eric Meijer and Alan Raybould)

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