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Australia, NZ dlrs Recover but Omicron Volatility ahead

The currencies of Australia and New Zealand recovered some ground against the greenback on Monday after last week's 13-month lows as the spread of the Omicron variant clouded the global growth outlook.

The Aussie was trading up 0.28% at $0.7017 by 0319 GMT, having shed 1.5% last week in its fifth week of losses, as markets also moved to price in a faster pace of U.S. rate hikes, helping the dollar.

The currency is far from its Oct 29 quarterly peaks of $0.755, with uncertainty about Omicron, now found in about a third of U.S. states as well as in Asia, Europe, and southern Africa, putting the risk-sensitive currency closer to its next test level of $0.6770, the low of June 2020.

"We expect AUD to remain volatile this week while market participants await information about Omicron," said Commonwealth Bank strategists.

"Do not be surprised if AUD falls as low as 0.6758 before year end if the news about Omicron is bad."

The kiwi dollar was 0.16% higher at $0.6755 after losing 1.2% last week. It has little in the way of support until $0.6700.

Friday's mixed U.S. jobs did not alter expectations for the Federal Reserve to hasten the tapering of its asset purchases and possibly raise interest rates multiple times next year, despite the Omicron threat.

Australia's central bank holds the year's last monetary meeting on Tuesday, when the official cash rate is expected to be kept at a record low. Traders will watch for direction from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) statement after the meeting.

Most analysts assume it is too early for the RBA to change tack on its dovish outlook of no rate hikes in 2022, though there was some talk it might flag a cut in bond-buying. 

"The RBA would like to get out of the business of bond-buying sooner rather than later, as they are growing concerned about their large presence in the Australia Commonwealth Government Bond market," said Scott Solomon, a portfolio manager at T. Rowe Price.

"If the U.S. speeds up its taper, I think the RBA can do so as well."

The bond market strengthened on Monday, with three-year yields in Australian bonds moving down two basis points to 0.88% and 10-year yields down 5 basis points at 1.57%.

New Zealand bond yields were between 3 and 4 basis points lower across the curve.

Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Source: Reuters

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