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Canadian dollars. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)
Canadian dollars. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Loonie ends higher as traders speculate on U.S. rates Add to ...

The Canadian dollar closed higher Tuesday as traders speculated about the pace of U.S. interest rate hikes and digested data showing how severe winter weather has affected the American housing sector.

The loonie ended up 0.28 of a cent at 89.61 cents (U.S).

Charles Plosser, president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank, told CNBC he sees the federal funds rate at 3 per cent at the end of 2015 and 4 per cent at the end of 2016.

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The current target range for the federal funds rate is between zero and a quarter percentage point.

Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen caught markets unawares last week when she said the Fed could start raising rates from near zero six months after the end of its bond-buying program.

Plosser said the reaction of the markets surprised him, adding that Yellen’s timetable “wasn’t a wildly unexpected time frame.”

Cold weather continued to limit house buying last month as U.S. new-home sales dropped by 3.3 per cent in February.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite also indicated that U.S. home prices ticked down 0.1 per cent in January in a third month of declines, with 12 of 20 tracked cities posting drops. On a seasonally adjusted basis, home prices in January rose 0.8 per cent.

Elsewhere on the economic front, business confidence in Germany has slipped back from a 2 1/2-year high as tensions over Ukraine cloud companies’ outlook for the next six months. The Ifo institute said its monthly confidence index dropped to 110.7 points this month from 111.3 in February. That was slightly worse than the 110.9 economists had predicted.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed that she wants a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Russia’s actions in Ukraine but has made clear she won’t shy away from economic sanctions if the situation there escalates.

Commodities were higher as May crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange erased early gains to decline 41 cents to $99.19 a barrel.

April gold bullion inched up 20 cents to $1,311.40 an ounce while May copper was up 6 cents to $3.01 a pound.

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