The New Zealand dollar was little changed after failing to break out of the top of its recent trading range and as traders await more details on US-China trade talks.

The kiwi was trading at 68.87 US cents at 5pm in Wellington from 68.83 this morning. The trade-weighted index was at 74.26 points from 74.25.

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"We need some detail on the US-China trade talks and we're not going to be getting that for a while," says Martin Rudings, foreign exchange dealer at OMF.

While negative for the US dollar, "overall, it should be positive for the US economy," Rudings says.


The US dollar remains near three-week lows after Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell reiterated that the Fed will remain "patient" on further interest rate hikes, even though he said rising risks and recent soft data are unlikely to prevent solid growth in the US economy this year.

New Zealand trade figures out earlier today showed the highest January deficit on record. The seasonally adjusted deficit was also more than double what economists had been expecting but barely caused a ripple in foreign exchange markets.

The New Zealand dollar "might've moved down five points and came straight back," Rudings says. With strong resistance at just above 69 US cents, it's unlikely the kiwi will break out of its current range unless the US dollar weakens further, he says.

China's manufacturing PMI release due tomorrow will be closely watched as the latest gauge of the health of the world's second-largest economy. China is also New Zealand's biggest trading partner.

Rudings says the Australian dollar "is looking pretty heavy" after data showed the value of construction work done in the December quarter fell 3.1 per cent. That followed a 3.6 per cent drop in the September quarter and was at odds with the 0.4 per cent gain economists had been picking.

The construction data adds to other recent evidence that activity is slowing in Australia and challenges the Reserve Bank of Australia's view that the economy will rebound soon.

The New Zealand dollar was trading at 96.17 Australian cents from 95.92, at 76.17 yen from 76.46, at 51.99 British pence from 51.96, 60.53 euro cents from 60.48 and 4.6092 Chinese yuan from 4.6102.

The two-year swap rate is at 1.8200 per cent from 1.8435 yesterday; the 10-year swap rate is at 2.3900 per cent from 2.4300.