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SYDNEY: The Australian and New Zealand dollars clung to much-needed gains on Thursday as investors hoped reports the Omicron coronavirus variant was only mild in its effects meant its spread would be only a transitory drag on the global economy.

The Aussie was up at $0.7208, having rallied 0.8% overnight to as far as $0.7222. That was some way from the $0.7083 low hit early in the week and just a whisker from its December top of $0.7224.

The kiwi dollar was looking steadier at $0.6809, after rising 0.7% overnight and away from the recent trough of $0.6702. Further resistance now lies at $0.6834 and $0.6867.

Sentiment improved after studies from South Africa and Britain suggested that those infected with Omicron were less likely to end up in hospital than those with the Delta strain. Surprising strength in US consumer confidence also helped ease concerns about a potential slowdown in spending in the world’s largest economy.

Australian data was also upbeat with private credit surging 0.9% in November, the biggest gain since 2007 when the housing market was booming ahead of the global financial crisis. Business credit jumped a healthy 1.6% in November, which could bode well for a pick up in investment in the new year.

Annual growth in housing loans accelerated sharply to 7.3% which, while moderate compared to the peak of 24% hit in 2007, will likely still be a red flag for regulators given how heavily indebted households are. Regulators have already tightened some requirements on home loans but will be under pressure to do more if credit keeps expanding at such a rapid pace.

With bank financing clearly plentiful, it will also add to the case for the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to wrap up its bond buying campaign in February rather than May.

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