The New Zealand dollar fell as further delays in Greece's bailout package, weaker-than-expected retail sales and credit rating downgrades of nine European nations sapped risk sentiment.

The New Zealand dollar was little-changed on 82.80 US cents just after 8.30am from 82.96 cents yesterday at 5pm.

The trade-weighted index rose to 73.28 from 73.03.
Investors flocked to safe-haven currencies such as the greenback and the yen late yesterday after rating agency Moody Investors Service cut the sovereign credit ratings on Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. It put Austria, France and the UK on notice.

Sentiment was further dented after a European Union finance minister's meeting on the Greek package was delayed.


The Moody's downgrades were "enough to point the New Zealand dollar lower," and it remained in a consolidation phase overnight, said Alex Sinton, senior dealer at ANZ New Zealand. "We are once again in a holding pattern waiting for confirmation or denouncement of the bailout package for Greece."

Investors remain focused on tomorrow's deadline for European Union finance minister to sign off on a second Greek bailout fund. The ministers will now hold a teleconference instead of attending a face-to-face meeting in Brussels after a lack of political assurance from Greek leaders.

Greece needs the ministers to sign off on an aid package worth $130 billion euros in order to make its March 20 bond payment and avoid default.

In the US, the world's largest economy, the Commerce Department reported a 0.4 percent gain in January retail sales, half the 0.8 percent rise forecast by economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

The decline was led by an unexpected drop in automobiles, while purchases were also revised down 0.1 percentage point in each of the prior two months, unchanged from December and a 0.3 percent rise in November.

In New Zealand, the Local Government Funding Agency, a new central debt agency for local authorities to raise money, will hold its first auction today. The retail trade survey for the fourth quarter is also set for release, with the market predicting a 0.8 percent increase.

The New Zealand dollar rose to 63.28 euro cents from 63.06 cents and was up to 77.79 Australian cents from 77.62 cents. The kiwi advanced to 65.05 yen from 64.61 yen. It was little-changed on 52.88 British pence from 52.82 pence.