By Naomi Tajitsu and Ian Chua
WELLINGTON/SYDNEY, March 20 (Reuters) - The Australian dollar came under pressure on Tuesday as worries about China, Australia's single biggest export market, flared up after global miner BHP Billiton said it saw signs that growth in iron ore demand there was slowing.
Traders took that as an excuse to sell the currency, knocking it off an early high of $1.0625 to as low as $1.0551. It last stood at $1.0560, with support seen in the $1.0550 region.
Earlier, minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia's March meeting barely lifted an eyebrow in markets. The central bank judged rates were at the right level then, but saw plenty of room to cut if necessary.
"We continue to expect that the RBA can ease policy a little further, while the next window for a cut appears to be May. By then, the Board will have had more time to assess the evolution of economic and financial conditions, especially in the labour market," said Craig Michaels, senior economist at ANZ.
Tracking the Aussie lower, the New Zealand dollar fell around 0.3 percent to the day's low of $0.8225. Early gains to $0.8285 were met by selling from leveraged and corporate communities.
Traders said demand from model funds had fizzled when the Aussie started to move lower, but saw limited losses as technical support at $0.8196, its 55-day moving average, loomed.
The Aussie slightly underperformed its New Zealand peer, slipping 0.1 percent to NZ$1.2814.
Against the yen, both Antipodean currencies retreated from recent highs, but were still seen on an uptrend versus the embattled Japanese currency.
The Aussie was at 88.20 , but still in sight of Monday's 10-month peak of 88.62. The kiwi , which has surged 15 percent on the yen this year, stood at 68.74 yen, a day after reaching a near two-year high of 69.12.
Much of their gains can be attributed to weakness in the yen, which came under pressure following last month's surprise easing by the Bank of Japan. Expectations of more stimulus have cemented the yen's status as a funding currency for carry trades.
On the data front, investors were awaiting New Zealand's current account and GDP reports due on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. The current account deficit is seen widening slightly, while the pace of economic growth is expected to have slowed a shade.
Australian debt futures were mixed as the yield curve steepened. The three-year contract added 0.03 points to 96.220, while the 10-year eased 0.010 points to 95.665.
New Zealand government bonds slipped, pushing yields 5 basis points higher across the curve.Australia and New Zealand bureaux)
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