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Loonie close slightly higher as Canada posts trade surplus

A Loonie and ten dollar bill are seen in this file photo.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The Canadian dollar held relatively steady on Thursday ahead of employment numbers that will provide a glimpse at the state of the U.S. and Canadian economies.

The loonie ended the day 0.03 of a cent lower at 90.59 before the key employment data is released early Friday.

Both countries are expected to show modest increases helped by calmer winter weather in March, but questions remain over whether Canadian jobs market growth is stagnant.

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"In our analysis of recent trends, we find that Canada's labour market is still on a better footing than the U.S. market," Mark Chandler of RBC Dominion Securities wrote in a note.

"Its overall performance is not too different from previous cycles and – while a modest degree of slack is present – it is not considerably different from the overall level of slack for the economy as a whole."

Economists expect that the latest American job creation figures will show that businesses started hiring more workers in March as the bad winter weather subsided. Consensus expectations suggest that around 195,000 new positions were created, which would be a steady improvement from recent months.

In Canada, analysts expect about 25,000 jobs were added last month, which would be an improvement from the decline of 7,000 in February.

On Thursday, the Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index rose, helped by growth in the service sector, while data from the U.S. Labour Department indicated that hiring remains stable, close to levels seen before the recession.

Meanwhile, Statistics Canada reported thatg the country had a small trade surplus of $290-million in February, compared to a deficit of $337-million in January. Merchandise exports grew 3.6 per cent, while imports were up 2.1 per cent in February, it said.

In commodities, June bullion dropped $6.20 to $1,284.60 an ounce, as investors moved away from the precious metal on signs of further growth in the U.S. economy.

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The price of oil closed above $100 a barrel with the May contract for light crude up 67 cents at $100.29. May copper dipped 1.9 cents to $3.027 a pound.

The European Central Bank announced that it would keep its key policy rate unchanged, saying that despite evidence the economy of the 18-country euro zone is weak and inflation is going down, interest rates will remain at 0.25 per cent.

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