Encouraging China economic data buoys Australian dollar

FILE PHOTO: Australian dollars are seen in an illustration photo February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

By Tom Westbrook

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The Australian dollar reached a 10-day high on Monday on stronger-than-expected economic data from China, which some analysts saw as signaling that moves to revive spending in the world’s second biggest economy are working.

The Aussie gained 0.2% to $0.7033 against the U.S. dollar , which ticked higher against the safe-haven yen and the Swiss franc .

China’s industrial output bounced in June from a 17-year low in the previous month. June retail sales surged 9.8% from a year earlier, compared with the 8.3% – a slowing from May’s tepid figures – that polled analysts expected.

China is Australia’s biggest export market and the data caused the Australian dollar to touch its highest point since July 4.

The yuan strengthened against the dollar to get to its highest since last week, while the New Zealand dollar hit a two-week peak.

“China’s economy is finding a base and it was not as weak as feared, so risky currencies go up,” said Imre Speizer head of NZ strategy at Westpac Banking Corporation (AX:WBC) in Auckland.

“The market is wanting to price a lot of risk into the Aussie,” he said.

China’s quarterly gross domestic product posted its slowest pace of growth in 27 years, as expected, growing by 6.2% in the June quarter compared to a year earlier.

“The upside from an Australian perspective is that China – our biggest trading partner – will continue to stimulate its economy to achieve its official annual growth target,” said Commonwealth Bank of Australia economist Ryan Felsman.

“The new stimulus measures appear to be working, contributing to stronger readings in June activity data, with investment, production and retail spending all beating market expectations,” he wrote in a note to clients.

The U.S. dollar remained under pressure on expectations of a Federal Reserve rate cut. Comments last week from Fed Chair Jerome Powell and Chicago Fed president Charles Evans indicated U.S. rate cuts are needed to boost inflation.

In the U.S., a 25 basis-point rate cut at the end of July is priced in, and there is a roughly 20% chance of a 50 basis point cut.

Investors will be looking to U.S. retail sales figures due Tuesday and company earnings for signs of how shoppers and businesses are weathering the slowdown.

Against a basket of currencies (DXY) the dollar held near a 10-day low at 96.830.

It gained against the yen to 108.10, before that was pared to 108.00, well underneath resistance at 108.98. Monday is a national holiday in Japan and dollar-yen trading volumes were thin.

The greenback rose as much 0.1% against the Swiss franc before easing back to $0.9845. The euro (EUR=) slipped to $1.272 though stayed in the two-cent range that has held the single currency since June.