Australia, NZ dlrs edge up, jobs data upbeat but with caveats

SYDNEY, Aug 13 (Reuters) - The Australian and New Zealand dollars edged higher on Thursday as risk sentiment improved globally, while Australian jobs data proved surprisingly upbeat in July ahead of the latest lockdown in Victoria state.

The Aussie firmed to $0.7170, from a low of $0.7109 the day before, but met resistance around $0.7190. It also remains short of the recent 18-month peak of $0.7242.

The kiwi dollar stood at $0.6575, having bounced from a trough of $0.6524 on Wednesday. Resistance lies at $0.6627 and $0.6690.

Official data showed Australian employment jumped 114,700 in July, far above the median forecast of 40,000, though estimates had been unusually wide given the extreme fluctuations caused by coronavirus lockdowns.

The jobless rate rose to 7.5% from 7.4%, again under forecasts of 7.8%, while full-time jobs rose 43,500.

Still, the damage done by lockdowns was clear in the number of unemployed which topped 1 million for the first time ever while employment was still 500,000 below its March level.

The latest health restrictions in Victoria will also deal a setback to employment this month.

“While today’s data looks better than expected, timing is everything,” said Sarah Hunter, chief economist for BIS Oxford Economics.

“Restrictions have tightened and conditions worsened since then, with payrolls confirming that employment in Victoria is now falling. Employment is likely to slip back in August.”

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) still expects unemployment to rise toward 10% by the end of this year and only decline slowly to 7% by mid-2022.

Earlier this month, the bank reiterated it was on hold for the time being, though it has stepped up its bond buying, taking A$5 billion ($3.59 billion) just this week after two months of no purchases at all.

That has helped pull three-year bond yields back to 0.27%, and near the RBA’s official interest rate of 0.25%, from a top of 0.30% last week.

However, with all the buying concentrated at the short-end, 10-year yields have tracked a sell-off in U.S. Treasuries to reach 0.92% up from a recent low of 0.794%.

New Zealand 10-year yields have gone the other way, falling to a near three-month low of 0.72% after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) sharply boosted its bond buying target to NZ$100 billion.

RBNZ Deputy Governor Geoff Bascand told Reuters on Thursday it would consider more stimulus if there are longer periods of coronavirus lockdowns in the country. ($1 = 1.3947 Australian dollars) (Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)