The New Zealand dollar was mixed after poor retail sales data in Australia were offset by surprisingly strong trade data. The Bank of Canada also joined the ranks of central banks noting signs of a weaker-than-expected economy.

The kiwi was trading at 67.84 US cents at 5pm in Wellington from 67.71 at 8am and at 96.31 Australian cents from 96.38.

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The Australia data showed retail sales rose 0.1 per cent in January, below the 0.3 per cent lift the market had expected, but that country's trade balance in January was A$4.55 billion ($4.7b), well above the A$2.75b expected and the thirteenth successive month of surpluses.

That suggests the trade war between the United States and China, and the slowing Chinese economy, have yet to impact Australia's exports.

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Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz says the slowdown in global economic growth has been "more pronounced and widespread" than it forecast in January.

Although he had expected Canada's economy would stumble, he said the fall in the December quarter was sharper and more broadly based than he had expected.

Tim Kelleher, head of institutional foreign exchange sales at ASB Bank, says the market's looking a little short at current levels and that there's reasonable demand for New Zealand dollars from exporters.

"We're just in a holding pattern at the lower end of the range," he says.

While the Australian market has become gloomier and more economists are forecasting rate cuts, indications from the Reserve Bank of Australia are more upbeat.

"Until you see employment falling off a cliff, you're not going to see much action from the RBA," Kelleher says. Australia's unemployment rate stands at 5 per cent, a little higher than New Zealand's at 4.3 per cent.

While the market is getting more certain that rate cuts in Australia are coming, traders are less certain about rate cuts in New Zealand. Kelleher says the market currently is pricing in 16 basis points of a cut, which normally would be 25 basis points.

The European Central Bank will meet overnight New Zealand time and is expected to lower its growth forecasts.

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The New Zealand dollar was trading at 51.45 British pence from 51.41, at 60 euro cents from 59.87, at 75.77 yen from 75.65 and at 4.5511 Chinese yuan from 4.5426. The trade-weighted index was at 73.67 points from 73.58.

The two-year swap rate ended the day at 1.8294 per cent from 1.8230 on Wednesday; the 10-year rate was at 2.4150 per cent from 2.4450.