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Loonie recovers from early drop to end slightly lower

Canadian dollars.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

The Canadian dollar closed lower Friday but well off session lows amid data showing a better-than-expected read on Canadian retail sales and low pressure on prices.

The loonie ended down 0.03 of a cent at 95.02 cents (U.S.) after going as low as 94.67 cents.

But the currency improved after Statistics Canada reported that October retail sales rose 1 per cent, much higher than the 0.3 per cent gain that economists had expected. But excluding autos, sales were flat against an expected 0.2 per cent rise.

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On the inflation front, the agency reported that inflation rose at an annual rate of 0.7 per cent, down from 1.1 per cent in September and lower than the 0.9 per cent increase that economists expected.

The Canadian currency has had a tough week, losing almost three-quarters of a cent.

The loonie started sliding in earnest midweek and the greenback gained ground after minutes from the Fed's latest meeting suggested the U.S. central bank will start reducing its $85-billion of monthly bond purchases in the coming months.

The content of the minutes may have come as a surprise to the markets after Janet Yellen, who is slated to become the next Fed chairman, had expressed strong support for low-interest-rate and bond-buying policies during her confirmation hearing last week.

This third round of quantitative easing has kept interest rates low to support a slow but steady economic recovery in the U.S. but also propelled money into higher-yielding stocks.

Commodity prices were mixed with January crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange off 60 cents to $94.84.

December copper rose 2 cents to $3.21 a pound, while December bullion inched up 50 cents to $1,244.10 an ounce. But worries about Fed tapering still left gold prices down more than 3 per cent on the week.

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