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SYDNEY: The Australian and New Zealand dollars remained under pressure on Wednesday having hit their lowest levels of the year after the U.S. Federal Reserve flagged a quicker withdrawal of stimulus, while worries about the Omicron variant also weighed.

The Australian dollar was up 0.2% at $0.7139 at 0139 GMT, having hit a near 13-month low of $0.7061 overnight after Fed Chair Jerome Powell said high inflation would persist until the middle of next year.

The New Zealand dollar edged up slightly to $0.6834, recovering from a near one-year low of $0.6771 it hit overnight.

“Further market pricing for FOMC rate hikes and/or negative news about Omicron can push AUD/USD below 0.7000,” analysts at Australia’s top bank Commonwealth of Australia said in a note.

Meanwhile, data showed Australia’s economic growth slowed to 3.9% in the third quarter from 9.6% during the prior three-month period, reflecting coronavirus restrictions in New South Wales and Victoria during most of the quarter.

Investors were also assessing the threat from Omicron as the country confirmed its first case of community transmission of the new variant, just days after it reported two positive cases of the strain.

“The emergence of the Omicron variant though is a significant risk to the rebound and it is too early to assess how severe the variant is,” analysts at National Australia Bank said in a note.

Australia’s three-year bond contract was down 8 ticks at 98.875. The 10-year yield ticked higher to 1.739% and the Australian 3-year yield was up 2.9 basis points at 0.937%.

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