Key Points:

The New Zealand dollar climbed to a 2-1/2-week high against the greenback today, as the kiwi and Australian currencies received a boost from improving local sharemarkets.

At 5pm today the NZ dollar was buying US58.98c, after peaking around US59.15c earlier in the afternoon. The kiwi has been generally moving upwards against the US currency since dropping down close to US57.50c on Friday night.

The US dollar held firm near a three-week high against the yen as risk appetite grew after Tokyo shares followed Wall Street higher on hopes for a recovery in the US economy later in the year.

The Nikkei share average rose 2.9 per cent as Japan began trading for the year. US stocks surged late last week with investors discounting gloomy economic data, including a sharp contraction in factory activity.

Hopes of a fresh economic stimulus package from US President-elect Barack Obama, primarily designed to create 3 million jobs and resuscitate growth, were supporting the greenback, traders said.

The NZ dollar was also strong against the Japanese currency, getting to its highest level in seven weeks around 54.50 yen. By 5pm the kiwi was buying 54/26 yen having been generally moving upwards since slipping below 52.50 on Friday.

Against the euro, the NZ dollar reached a month high near 0.4250 around lunchtime, then eased to 0.4248 by the local close, up from 0.4140 on Friday.

The kiwi was slightly up against the Australian dollar during local trading today, at A82.86c by 5pm. At that time the trade weighted index was 57.42 from 57.31 at 8am today.

Currency rates:

NZ dlr/US dlr US58.98c US57.84c

NZ dlr/Aust dlr A82.86c A83.57c

NZ dlr/euro 0.4248 0.4109

NZ dlr/yen 54.26 52.28

NZ dlr/stg 40.71 p 40.04p

NZ TWI 57.42 56.25

Aust dlr/US dlr US71.19c US69.20c

Euro/US dlr 1.38.82 1.4076

US dlr/yen 91.98 90.38

- NZPA