The New Zealand dollar fell before the release of fourth-quarter gross domestic product that's expected to show the pace of growth has slowed, while the greenback gained against most major currencies.

The New Zealand dollar fell to 81.45 US cents at 8am from 81.89 cents at 5pm yesterday.

A Reuters survey of 11 economists is for GDP to have grown 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter, slowing from a pace of 0.8 per cent three months earlier. The slowdown is attributed to a drop in manufacturing, offset by strong farming output and improving retail trade and construction.

"Anything over 0.6 per cent we may well get a lift in the New Zealand dollar," said Dan Bell, currency strategist at HiFX.


The data comes a day after government figures showed the current account deficit narrowed more than expected in the fourth quarter, amid record exports of dairy products and smaller dividends paid out to foreigners.

Among US data overnight, sales of previously owned houses fell 0.9 per cent to an annual rate of 4.59 million, just below the 4.61 million rate expected in a Bloomberg survey. The numbers were still strong enough to provide comfort the US housing market is stabilising.

The kiwi dollar fell to 51.38 British pence from 51.85 pence after Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced he would cut the top income tax rate to 45 per cent from 50 per cent, while closing some loopholes for the rich.

The New Zealand dollar was little-changed on 61.71 euro cents from 61.70 cents and was little-changed on 77.96 Australian cents from 77.99 cents. The kiwi declined to 68.02 yen from 68.53 yen.

The trade-weighted index decreased to 72.81 from 73.