The New Zealand dollar rode higher on a raft of positive news, including declining domestic Covid-19 infections, better than expected Chinese trade data and comments by Finance Minister Grant Robertson on his government's support for business.

The kiwi was trading at 61.20 US cents at 5pm in Wellington compared with 60.78 cents in New York last week and 60.14 cents at 5pm locally on Thursday heading into the Easter break.

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The trade-weighted index was at 69.22 from 68.71.

New Zealand's death toll from the virus rose by four to nine today, all men over 70 with two over 90. But new infections were just 17, down from the twin peaks of 89 on April 2 and April 5, taking the total number infected to 1,366. Of those, 628 people have recovered.


Chinese data today showed that country's exports fell 6.6 per cent in March from the same month last year, smaller than the 14 per cent drop economists had predicted. Its imports in the month fell 0.9 per cent, again much better than the 9.5 per cent decline economists had forecast.

Meanwhile, Robertson's comments to the parliamentary select committee overseeing the government's programmes to support the economy through the coronavirus crisis included that bank lending could be viewed as part of their "social licence" to operate.

Robertson said future government spending would be used for direct support of individuals, firms and encouragement of jobs-rich industries and that investment in public health, community services and worker deployment, such as retraining, would all be important.

Mike Shirley, a dealer at Kiwibank, said the currency had been rising ahead of the local day starting. A number of early afternoon developments, including Robertson's comments, the Chinese trade data and the latest Covid-19 numbers, fuelled a further increase in the kiwi.

"It's all underpinned by general weakness in the US dollar," Shirley said. That's happening as the market gets more confident that the Federal Reserve's actions to ensure liquidity are working.

The New Zealand dollar was trading at 95.25 Australian cents from 96.53 cents at 5pm on Thursday. It was at 48.71 British pence from 48.55, at 55.92 euro cents from 55.34, at 65.91 yen from 65.53 and at 4.3110 Chinese yuan from 4.2489.

The bid price on the two-year swap rate closed at 0.4350 per cent from 0.4400 on Thursday, while 10-year swaps were at 0.9200 per cent from 0.9875.