Loonie little changed amid rising retail sales, disappointing Chinese data

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TORONTO – The Canadian dollar closed slightly lower Wednesday amid better than expected February retail sales.

The loonie was down 0.03 of a cent to 90.65 cents US as Statistics Canada said retail sales rose 0.5 per cent to $41 billion. Economists had generally expected a 0.4 per cent rise.

Excluding sales at gasoline stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers, sales advanced 0.8 per cent.

At the same time, the agency lowered its reading for January retail sales to a gain of 0.9 per cent compared with an earlier estimate of 1.3 per cent.

Also, the revised figure for January, excluding sales at gasoline stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers, showed a 0.5 per cent gain, half of the initial estimate.

Traders also digested weak Chinese economic data.

Factory activity in China shrank for the fourth straight month in April, though the rate of decline was slightly slower. The preliminary version of HSBC’s purchasing managers’ index edged up to 48.3 from 48.0 in March. Numbers above 50 on the 100-point scale indicate expansion.

On the commodity markets, June crude in New York declined 31 cents to US$101.44 a barrel.

May copper was up a penny to $3.06 a pound while June gold bullion gained $3.50 to US$1,284.60 an ounce.

Other data showed the spring home buying season in the U.S. off to a weak start.

The U.S. Commerce Department says sales of new homes declined 14.5 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000. It was the second straight monthly decline and the lowest rate since July 2013.

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