The New Zealand dollar rose on stronger than expected trade data from China and positive news on its trade dispute with the United States.

The kiwi was trading at 68.30 US cents at 5pm from 68.09 at 8am. The trade-weighted index rose to 74.16 points from 73.97.

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Tim Kelleher, head of institutional foreign exchange sales at ASB Bank, said the trade figures from China, New Zealand's biggest trading partner, were "way stronger than expected."

They showed dollar-denominated imports fell 1.5 per cent in January from a year earlier, much better than economists' predictions of a 10 per cent decline. Exports rose 9.1 per cent compared to the 3.2 per cent contraction economists were expecting.

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China's much-watched trade surplus with the US - because of the trade tensions between the two countries - eased slightly to US$27.3 billion ($39.9b) in January, from US$29.87b in December.

That data was followed by an announcement from US President Donald Trump that talks with China are making good progress and that he's considering extending the deadline for imposing more tariffs on Chinese imports out from early March.

Kelleher says that, earlier in the day, the New Zealand dollar had weakened after Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr sounded more downbeat about the domestic economy when he appeared before Parliament's Finance and Expenditure Committee than he had yesterday when presenting the latest monetary policy statement.

Orr said the Reserve Bank is projecting that the household savings rate will improve but one of the risks is that households will spend more than expected.

"Generally, households in New Zealand have been very good at spending all their income plus," Orr told the committee. "We are assuming households will be more circumspect."

The New Zealand dollar fell as low as 67.93 US cents during the day - a long way off its overnight high of 68.52 cents - before recovering on the Chinese trade numbers.

Kelleher says a number of players in the market were caught short kiwi dollars which had prevented the currency falling further.

The New Zealand dollar is trading at 95.89 Australian cents from 95.87, at 75.86 yen from 75.54, at 53.07 British pence from 52.94, at 60.54 euro cents from 60.38 and at 4.6191 Chinese yuan from 4.6034.

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The two-year swap rate is at 1.9030 per cent from 1.8750; the 10-year swap rate is at 2.4850 per cent from 2.4530.