A weaker yuan fix, jitters about US-China trade tensions and lingering concerns about emerging markets combined to keep the New Zealand dollar on the back foot in Asian trading.

The kiwi traded at 65.10 US cents at 5pm versus 65.15 cents at 8am in Wellington and 65.26 cents yesterday. The trade-weighted index was at 71.04 from 71.13 yesterday.

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The People's Bank of China today fixed the midpoint of the yuan's trading range at 6.8546 per US dollar, compared with 6.8488 yesterday, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

That was the third daily devaluation in a row and added to fears the US-China trade war may heat up as a weaker yuan offsets the impact of higher tariffs.


The lower yuan fix causes the "market to get a bit tentative that something might be coming from (US President Donald) Trump," said Ross Weston, a senior trader at Kiwibank.

Investors are waiting for Trump's decision on whether to impose tariffs on another US$200 billion ($307b) of Chinese imports. News that China is seeking a green light from the World Trade Organisation to impose US$7b of sanctions against the US for Washington's non-compliance with a ruling in a dispute over US dumping duties added to the unease.

The kiwi slipped to 4.4743 Chinese yuan from 4.4795 yuan yesterday. The strengthening US dollar has hit emerging markets such as Argentina and Turkey given their exposure to US-dollar lending.

Weston said the "general mood is lower, based on what's going on in those markets." With recent US data supporting the greenback, it's "driving kiwi lower."

Weston said the kiwi broke through a key support level at 65.40 US cents and traders are trying to establish a new range. "Exactly what that is is up for debate, in particular ahead of next week's GDP data," he said.

The gross domestic product data is garnering particular attention after concerns about New Zealand's slowing economy appeared to trump signs of emerging inflation for the central bank in its last monetary policy statement.

ANZ Bank New Zealand economists forecast GDP expansion of 0.7 per cent in the second quarter, which would see annual growth moderate to 2.5 per cent.

"From here, we expect the economy will struggle to grow at trend, having lost some momentum," they said.

The data is due September 20.The kiwi traded at 91.69 Australian cents from 91.62 cents and eased to 72.60 yen from 72.71 yen yesterday. It was at 56.18 euro cents from 56.25 cents. It held near a two-and-a-half year low at 50.04 British pence from 50.06 pence yesterday.

New Zealand's two-year swap rate rose 2 basis points to 1.98 per cent while 10-year swaps lifted 2 basis point to 2.82 per cent.