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Aussie, Kiwi Hold Weekly Gains on Greece, Equities Rally

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Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The Australian and New Zealand dollars had weekly gains as optimism Greece will receive its second bailout early next week boosted demand for higher-yielding assets.

The New Zealand dollar advanced after Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard said the country’s economic performance may be understated and Germany expressed confidence that euro-area government will agree on a deal for Greece within days. The Aussie touched a six-month high against the yen as global stocks gained.

“There is still strong momentum behind” the Australian dollar, said Janu Chan, an economist at St. George Bank Ltd. in Sydney. “The developments in Greece are positive. I think in terms of Europe, it’s more likely that the news will be more positive than negative that the deal goes through.”

Australia’s dollar fell 0.4 percent to $1.0710 at 12:04 p.m. in New York. It’s set for a 0.3 percent gain this week. The Aussie was little changed at 84.89 yen, after earlier touching 85.50, the highest since Aug. 2.

New Zealand’s dollar rose 0.1 percent to 83.39 U.S. cents, headed for a 0.9 percent weekly gain. The so-called kiwi advanced 0.5 percent to 66.08 yen.

The European Central Bank swapped its Greek bonds for new securities, raising prospects that Greece will receive its next round of aid at a meeting Feb. 20 between euro-zone finance ministers, according to three euro-area officials.

Bollard’s View

New Zealand’s economic performance may be understated compared to that of other nations because of the country’s “conservative statistics interpretations,” the Reserve Bank’s Bollard said in e-mailed notes for a speech to the Trans Tasman Business Circle in Auckland today.

Gross domestic product may be as much as 10 percent higher than official data relative to other nations, he said.

New Zealand’s Treasury Department yesterday lowered its forecasts for economic growth in the year through March 31, 2013, to 2.8 percent from the 3.4 percent pace predicted in October, citing a weaker global outlook and delays in rebuilding the earthquake-damaged South Island city of Christchurch.

Traders are betting New Zealand’s central bank will raise rates by 0.15 percentage point over the next 12 months, according to a Credit Suisse Group AG index based on swaps. On Feb. 6, bets went from a projected cut to an increase. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has kept the official cash rate at a record-low 2.5 percent since March.

‘Improvement Lane’

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index of stocks advanced 0.9 percent and the MSCI World Index rose 0.5 percent. The Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of raw materials gained 0.3 percent yesterday.

In the U.S., the New York-based Conference Board announced today an index of leading indicators rose 0.4 percent in January, missing the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The research group’s gauge of the outlook for the next three-to-six months climbed a revised 0.5 percent in December.

The U.S. Labor Department said consumer prices increased 0.2 percent, falling short of economists’ forecast of 0.3 percent, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

“In the U.S., the run of economic data has been more upbeat,” said St. George’s Chan. “That generally continues to paint the picture that the U.S. economy remains in the improvement lane.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Mariko Ishikawa in Tokyo at mishikawa9@bloomberg.net; Austen Sherman in New York at asherman18@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dave Liedtka at dliedtka@bloomberg.net

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