Canadian dollar rises amid strong U.S. retail data, Chinese growth concerns

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TORONTO – The Canadian dollar closed higher Thursday amid a stronger than expected read on U.S. retail data and Chinese growth worries.

The loonie was up 0.51 of a cent to 90.47 cents US.

U.S. retail sales for February rose 0.3 per cent following a 0.6 per cent drop in January, better than the 0.2 per cent climb that economists had expected.

China growth worries have buffeted the currency and commodity prices this week.

Adding to those worries Thursday were government figures which showed industrial production in China rose by a lower than anticipated 8.6 per cent in the first two months of this year. Retail sales growth also fell short of estimates.

China’s premier Li Keqiang said Thursday that his country will keep this year’s economic expansion strong enough to create new jobs, adding that China will also emphasize market-opening reform and clean up smog-choked cities while aiming to hit its official growth target of 7.5 per cent.

The data followed a report issued last weekend showing the world’s second-biggest economy experienced an 18 per cent drop in exports in February.

Copper prices have slid more than eight per cent over the past four sessions. The May contract for the metal closed down four cents to US$2.92 a pound Thursday.

But it’s not just demand concerns that have weighted on copper.

Chinese authorities gave the go-ahead late last week for the country’s first credit default, involving a manufacturer of solar panels. And another solar energy company is also in danger of default.

This is worrisome because copper is used as much for financing transactions as it is for its industrial applications.

Traders worry that a wave of defaults could result in a massive liquidation of copper on the markets, which would further depress prices.

Demand questions have also hit oil prices hard this week with the April contract in New York down almost five per cent this week. But on Thursday, crude rose 21 cents to US$98.20 a barrel.

Gold bullion prices continued to head higher amid concerns centred on the Ukraine-Russian conflict. The April contract climbed for a fourth day, up $1.90 to US$1,372.40 an ounce.

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