By Swati Pandey

SYDNEY, Aug 21 (Reuters)The Australian dollar was poised for its ninth straight weekly rise on Friday, while its New Zealand counterpart weakened as the country’s central bank reiterated the need for interest rates to go further down.

The Australian dollar AUD=D4 was last at $0.7197, within striking distance of a 1-1/2 year high of $0.7275 hit on Wednesday.

For the week, the Aussie is up 0.4% so far.

The Aussie has had a solid run since mid-March, when it hit a bottom of $0.5510, as Australia’s economy re-opened earlier than expected and commodity prices stayed buoyant.

The currency is so far up 2.6% this year.

Westpac Chief Economist Bill Evans now expects the Aussie to hit $0.75 by year-end, from previous forecast of $0.72, and $0.80 by December 2021 from earlier expectation of $0.76.

Evans said strong iron ore prices and demand from top

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