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Australia Dollar Takes Breather from Omicron Shock

The Australian dollar recovered against the greenback on Monday after sliding last week as spooked investors scaled back bets of global monetary tightening on worries the Omicron coronavirus variant may be harder to combat with vaccines.

The Aussie was 0.4% higher at $0.7142 at 0248 GMT after hitting a three-month trough of $0.7115 on Friday as countries began to impose travel curbs and shut their borders to South Africa, where the new variant was first detected.

The kiwi dollar was little changed and hovering around $0.6827 after six consecutive days of losses. It fell 2.4% last week.

"A delay of further easing in restrictions and/or additional measures will be inevitable if Omicron moves quickly in Australia," RBC Capital strategists wrote to clients.

"Until there is greater clarity, markets will be nervous and risk better offered."

"Indeed, given the Delta experience, we would expect policymakers to assume the worst, move quickly, and take an overly cautious approach, which appears to be emerging."

Two people who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa tested positive on Sunday for the Omicron variant as officials ordered 14-day quarantine for citizens returning from nine African countries.

Britain called an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers on Monday to discuss developments on the virus, as the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible than other variants, or if it causes more severe disease.

Bond markets were higher on Monday, reversing a recent selloff that had priced in a quick recovery that would see central banks hiking interest rates faster than expected to contain inflation.

Traders had already taken out between 10 basis points and 30 basis points of hikes over the next few years by central banks in the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand on the back of the Omicron news, strategists said.

Australian 3-year yields were 3 basis points lower at 0.93%, after falling to a one-month low of 0.82% earlier in the session. Ten-year yields were one basis point lower at 1.77%, after falling to 1.63%, the lowest since Oct. 15.

New Zealand yields were three basis points lower across the curve.

Editing by Jacqueline Wong

Source: Reuters

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