The New Zealand dollar was little changed, retracing an earlier decline, after dairy prices fell as expected and comments by Federal Reserve officials kept alive the possibility of a US rate hike as soon as next month.

The kiwi traded at 71.62 US cents as at 8am in Wellington, having sunk as low as 71.27 cents ahead of the GlobalDairyTrade auction, from 71.55 cents late yesterday. The trade-weighted index was at 78.10 from 78.03 yesterday.

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Two Fed officials spoke overnight. Philadelphia Fed president Patrick Harker said a hike in March was on the table while Cleveland Fed president Loretta Mester said she was "comfortable inflation is near its goal" and that she would be comfortable to raise rates at this point. US and European stocks rose, as did commodity prices and the greenback. Meanwhile, prices fell at the latest dairy auction, after two successive gains, with the GDT index falling 3.2 per cent and whole milk powder down 3.7 per cent.

"Judging by the tone of 'Fedspeak', the March FOMC meeting is still 'live' in our view," said Con Williams, rural economist at ANZ Bank New Zealand, in a note. "With the probability of a March hike only at 38 per cent there is room to move, which could weigh on NZD."


Williams said while dairy prices fell in the face of increased volumes put forward by Fonterra Cooperative Group, the market is on watch for a lift in the dairy company's forecast milk payout and "many of New Zealand's other sectors appear to be off to a more positive start."

The kiwi dipped to 93.19 Australian cents from 93.26 cents. The local dollar slipped to 57.43 British pence from 57.52 pence and rose to 67.82 euro cents from 67.62 cents. It was little changed at 81.30 yen and traded at 4.9420 yuan from 4.9255 yuan.