New Zealand’s Capital Rattled by 6.3 Earthquake; Kiwi Drops

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck New Zealand’s North Island today, shaking capital city Wellington and sending the nation’s currency lower.

The temblor hit at 3:52 p.m. local time near the town of Castlepoint, about 160 kilometers (99 miles) northeast of Wellington, GeoNet said on its website. The New Zealand dollar dropped after the quake, falling as much as 0.3 percent to 82.32 U.S. cents, the lowest since Jan. 10. It traded at 82.47 U.S. cents at 5:10 p.m. in Wellington. There were no immediate reports of injury.

The country of 4.4 million people sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of volcanic and quake activity that circles the Pacific Ocean. Wellington’s city center was temporarily closed after a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck on July 21 last year, blowing out windows, throwing goods from store shelves and sending people running from buildings.

“I suspect there was not too much of an impact as I’ve not had the calls that I normally would if there’s damage,” Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners Ltd. in Tauranga, said by phone.

The benchmark NZX 50 Index ended the day little changed at 4,890.5.

A giant metal eagle hanging from the roof of Wellington airport to promote the Hobbit films, which has a wingspan of 15 meters and weighs about 2 tons, fell to the floor during the quake, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Radio New Zealand reported a large rockfall in Castlepoint, near the center of the quake, and damage to houses in surrounding areas. It said train services have been suspended in Wellington, where many businesses are closed for a regional public holiday.

A magnitude 6.3 quake in February 2011 in the South Island city of Christchurch killed 185 people, the nation’s deadliest in eight decades.

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