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Australian, N.Z. Dollars Gain on Greek Vote, Home Loans Data

The Australian and New Zealand dollars advanced, snapping three days of declines, after Greece passed austerity measures to qualify for an international bailout, boosting demand for riskier assets.

The so-called Aussie climbed against the yen after data showed that Australian home-loan approvals increased in December. The South Pacific nations’ currencies also rose against most major peers before figures tomorrow that may show U.S. retail sales and import prices increased in January.

“On the view that Greek legislation is passed, we can see a bit of upside for the Aussie dollar,” said Adam Carr, a senior economist in Sydney at ICAP Australia Ltd., a unit of the world’s biggest interdealer broker. “The domestic economy is very strong. This will continue to support Aussie dollar risk trades.”

Australia’s dollar advanced 0.6 percent to $1.0739 as of 4:58 p.m. in Sydney. The Aussie appreciated 0.6 percent to 83.37 yen. The New Zealand dollar, known as the kiwi, climbed 0.9 percent to 83.42 U.S. cents and advanced 0.9 percent to 64.76 yen.

Australia’s government bonds declined, with the yield on the 10-year security rising three basis points, or 0.03 percentage point, to 4.03 percent. Three-year yields rose two basis points to 3.55 percent.

Greek Vote

A total of 199 Greek lawmakers voted in favor of the austerity plan and 74 against, Parliament Speaker Filippos Petsalnikos said in remarks carried live on state-run Vouli TV.

“It is up to us, our vote, whether the country will remain in the euro or be led to a disorderly default,” Prime Minister Lucas Papademos told parliament. “Voting for the economic program and opening the road for a loan accord sets the basis for the modernization and recovery of the economy.”

Passage of the austerity bill puts the spotlight on a meeting of euro-region finance ministers on Feb. 15 that must decide whether to approve the 130 billion-euro ($172 billion) second aid package.

In Australia, the number of loans granted to build or buy houses and apartments rose 2.3 percent in December from the previous month, the most since May, after rising a revised 1.8 percent in November, the statistics bureau said in Sydney today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey was for a 1.8 percent increase.

Home Loans

The “rise in housing finance is positive for the economic outlook more generally,” Rob Henderson, chief economist for markets at National Australia Bank Ltd., wrote in a note to clients today. “This is a piece of evidence giving credence to the Bank’s decision to keep rates on hold in February.”

The Reserve Bank of Australia unexpectedly left its benchmark rate unchanged at 4.25 percent on Feb. 7 amid signs that Europe is beginning to contain its sovereign-debt crisis and the U.S. recovery is gaining strength. The decision was predicted by three of 27 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, with the other 24 forecasting a quarter-percentage point reduction.

A Credit Suisse Group AG index based on swaps shows that traders are betting the RBA will cut its main rate by 59 basis points over the next 12 months. That compares with 104 points of reductions indicated on Feb. 1.

National Australia Bank raised its first-quarter forecast for the Australian dollar to $1.05, according to a research note published today. Its previous projection in January was for the currency to be at 96 U.S. cents.

Sales at U.S. retailers probably rose 0.8 percent last month from December, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists before the Commerce Department releases its figures tomorrow. Prices of goods imported into the U.S. are forecast to have increased 0.3 percent in January, a separate survey indicated before the Labor Department releases the data tomorrow.

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