SYDNEY, April 9 (Reuters) - The Australian dollar stumbled on Friday, pulling down the New Zealand dollar too, due to worries about a slowdown in Australia’s coronavirus vaccine rollout after the imposition of age-related restrictions on the use of AstraZeneca shots.
The Australian dollar was last down 0.6% at $0.7607, almost reversing its gains from Thursday and easing back from a two-week top of $0.7675 having failed to hold above key chart resistance at $0.7668.
Australia has restricted the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine - on which it had largely based its vaccination programme - due to risks of blood clots. The policy change effectively spoils the government’s chances of inoculating the entire population innoculated by October.
“Although the vaccination programme was running slowly anyway, that will complicate Australia’s rollout timetable even more,” said Jeffrey Halley, Senior Market Analyst, Asia Pacific, OANDA.
“Delayed full re-opening of borders equals a negative for Australia.”
For the week so far, the Aussie was still up 0.3%, its first increase since the week of March 12.
The currency has consolidated around $0.7650 in recent weeks following a brief run-up to $0.80 earlier this year. Some analysts expect it to touch that high again.
“We continue to expect the AUD to lift to $0.85 in the first half of 2022, supported by elevated commodity prices and by the global recovery gathering momentum, including across Europe,” Westpac’s currency strategists wrote in a note.
Westpac expects the currency to hit $0.82 by the end of this year.
“A major source of the growth uplift has been an increase in our forecast for U.S. growth in 2021,” the analysts added.
The New Zealand dollar was off 0.5% at $0.7025. The kiwi is facing resistance at $0.7070 with the next major barrier at $0.7100.
For the week, it was mostly unchanged, marking another week of underwhelming performance.
Separately, prospects of interest rate hikes in China weighed on the antipodean currencies after data show the country’s factory gate prices rose at their fastest annual pace since July 2018 in March.
China is the top trading partner for both Australia and New Zealand.
“Put together, the AUD and to some extend, NZD, are facing a number of headwinds today,” OANDA’s Halley said. (Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)