The Australian dollar advanced against its U.S. counterpart after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said accommodative monetary policy is still needed, sending investors searching for higher yields.
The Australian and New Zealand currencies have climbed this quarter against the greenback as shares and commodity prices advanced on signs of improvement in the U.S. economy and as concern eased that Europe’s debt crisis would damp growth. New Zealand’s dollar advanced as the nation recorded a trade surplus last month.
“U.S. economic indicators are good,” said Toshiya Yamauchi, a senior analyst in Tokyo at Ueda Harlow Ltd., which provides currency margin-trading services. “What’s supporting the Australian and New Zealand dollars are commodity prices that remain elevated.”
Australia’s dollar, known as the Aussie, climbed 0.4 percent to $1.0508 at 1:22 p.m. in New York. It rallied 1 percent to 87 yen.
New Zealand’s currency, or kiwi, advanced 0.3 percent to 82.07 U.S. cents and gained 0.9 percent to 67.96 yen.
The decline in U.S. unemployment may reflect “a reversal of the unusually large layoffs that occurred during late 2008 and over 2009,” Bernanke said in a speech today in Arlington, Virginia. “To the extent that this reversal has been completed, further significant improvements in the unemployment rate will likely require a more-rapid expansion of production and demand from consumers and businesses, a process that can be supported by continued accommodative policies.”
The Fed has said it will probably hold interest rates steady through 2014. Australia’s benchmark 4.25 percent interest rate and New Zealand’s 2.5 percent compare to Japan’s near-zero percent.
New Zealand’s exports exceeded imports in February by NZ$161 million ($131 million), compared with a revised NZ$159 million deficit in January, the statistics bureau said today. Economists had estimated a NZ$153 million surplus.
The Aussie has advanced 3 percent this year against the greenback, while the kiwi has gained 5.6 percent. The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Total Return Index for commodities has risen 8.4 percent during the period, while the MSCI All Country World Index of stocks has climbed 12 percent.