The New Zealand dollar held steady despite poor local business confidence figures and data from China showing factory activity is slowing.

The kiwi was trading at 68.48 US cents at 5pm in Wellington from 68.40 cents this morning. The trade-weighted index was at 73.91 points from 73.84.

“We have pretty negative news from the ANZ business confidence survey and then the Chinese data was worse,” says Tim Kelleher, head of external foreign exchange sales at ASB Bank.

The ANZ Bank’s headline business confidence index sank 7 points in the latest month with a net 31 percent of respondents expecting general business conditions to deteriorate in the year ahead.

Still, it’s better than the recent low back in August when a net 50 percent expected general business conditions to worsen.

A net 11 percent of firms are expecting their own businesses to improve, but that’s down 3 points from the last survey in December.

The Chinese data showed factory activity shrank for a third consecutive month in February with the official Purchasing Manager’s Index falling to a three-year low at 49.2 points – any reading below 50 indications a contraction.

The situation wasn’t helped when the top US trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer told Congress that it’s still too early to tell if China will concede to US demands.

That’s despite President Donald Trump already talking about inviting China President Xi Jinping to his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago to sign a trade agreement.

Lighthizer said the administration is pressing for significant structural changes to allow for a more level playing field and that the disagreement won’t be solved simply by China promising to buy more US goods.

Kelleher says that with the month ending in New York overnight, he would expect that “month-end repositioning” should mean the kiwi and Australian dollars should be well-supported.

The New Zealand dollar was trading at 95.82 Australian cents from 95.88, at 75.91 yen from 75.88, at 51.49 British pence from 51.39, at 60.16 euro cents from 60.53 and 4.5757 Chinese yuan from 4.5720.

The two-year swap rate is at 1.8025 percent from 1.8200 yesterday; the 10-year swap rate is at 2.4000 percent from 2.3900.

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