Australia, N.Z. Dollars Rise as Commodities, Stocks Advance

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The Australian dollar touched the highest in more than 2 1/2 months against the greenback and New Zealand’s currency gained as prices increased for commodities that make up more than half the nations’ exports.

The currencies gained for a fourth day versus the yen as stocks rose amid optimism U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s fiscal stimulus will help the world’s largest economy recover from recession, reviving investors’ appetite for higher-yielding assets. The Australian dollar touched an eight-week high against the yen as the yield gap between two-year Australian and Japanese bonds widened to the most in more than a month.

“There has been an improvement in the risk environment as equity markets had a positive start to the new year,” said Imre Speizer, a market strategist in Wellington with Westpac Banking Corp. “U.S. data, while still poor, hasn’t been as bad as the market expected and commodities also recovered. Obama’s planned tax cuts also may bolster consumer and business sentiment.”

Australia’s dollar climbed to 71.22 U.S. cents at 4:55 p.m. in Sydney, from 71.02 cents in late Asian trading yesterday. It reached 72.05 cents, the highest since Oct. 15. It advanced to 66.33 yen from 66.18 yen. The currency reached 67.26 yen, the strongest since Nov. 11.

New Zealand’s dollar rose to 58.54 U.S. cents from 58.43 cents in Asia yesterday. It touched 59.18 cents, matching yesterday’s two-week high. The currency gained to 54.51 yen from 54.44 yen. It reached 55.22 yen, the most since Nov. 14.

The Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of 19 raw materials climbed to 237.33 yesterday, its strongest since Dec. 1, as crude oil rose to a five-week high amid speculation the conflict in the Gaza Strip may disrupt Middle-East oil supplies and on signs that OPEC production cuts are being implemented. The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index of regional shares advanced 0.3 percent.

From Bloomberg News.