The Canadian dollar strengthened slightly in choppy trading against its U.S. counterpart on Thursday, as oil prices rallied but a spike in U.S. jobless claims weighed on investor sentiment.
After a sharp decline on Wednesday, stock markets globally remained jittery, with data showing the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits soared to a record high of more than 6 million as more jurisdictions enforced stay-at-home measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
Canada runs a current account deficit and is a major exporter of commodities, including oil, so the loonie tends to be sensitive to the global flow of trade and capital.
U.S. crude oil futures settled 24.7 per cent higher at $25.32 a barrel after U.S. President Donald Trump said he expected Russia and Saudi Arabia to announce a major oil production cut, and Saudi state media said the kingdom was calling an emergency meeting of producers to deal with the market turmoil.
Canada posted a trade deficit of C$983 million in February, data from Statistics Canada showed. Analysts had forecast a deficit of C$1.87 billion.
The trade deficit was narrower than expected “but the look in the rear view mirror was of no interest to the markets,” said analysts at Action Economics.
At 3:01 p.m. (1901 GMT), the Canadian dollar was trading 0.1 per cent higher at 1.4186 to the greenback, or 70.49 U.S. cents. The currency, which has fallen more than 8 per cent since the start of the year, traded in a range of 1.4081 to 1.4298.
Canada now has more than 10,000 coronavirus cases and the death toll has jumped 21 per cent from a day earlier to 127, according to data posted by the country’s public health agency.
Ottawa is rolling out more than C$200 billion in support for Canada’s economy, including direct aid to Canadians, wage subsidies for businesses, loan programs and tax deferrals, while the Bank of Canada has slashed interest rates to nearly zero and is buying government bonds in large quantities, known as quantitative easing.
Canadian government bond yields rose across a steeper curve. The 10-year was up 3.6 basis points at 0.650 per cent.
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