Canadian dollar lower amid rising Ukraine tensions; traders look to key data

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TORONTO – The Canadian dollar closed lower Friday as traders looked to worsening tensions in Ukraine and ahead to a slew of important economic data coming out next week.

The loonie slipped 0.07 of a cent to 90.61 cents US as traders looking for safety bought up U.S. Treasuries and the yield on the benchmark 10-year bond dipped to 2.67 per cent from 2.68 per cent late Thursday.

There were scattered reports of violence Friday as Ukraine forces try to end an occupation of government buildings by pro-Russian militia in more than 10 cities in eastern Ukraine. In turn, Russia’s Foreign Minister has accused the West of plotting to control Ukraine and also announced military exercises near Ukraine’s border.

And late Friday afternoon, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister said he feared an imminent Russian invasion. Danylo Lubkivskye spoke as an official in Ukraine confirmed that pro-Russian forces had detained a team of military observers with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

At the same time, the economic cost to Russia for its stance toward Ukraine increased as Standard & Poor’s cut Russia’s credit rating to BBB-minus. The rating is one step above speculative or non-investment grade and down from the previous BBB rating.

S&P said it took the step because the tense situation “could see additional significant outflows of both domestic and foreign capital from the Russian economy.”

In other developments, the Russian central bank increased its key rate to 7.5 per cent from seven per cent.

The coming week will see a string of top-drawer economic reports, including the latest gross domestic product data for Canada and the U.S. The latest official reading on Chinese manufacturing will also be released and, on Friday, the U.S. government releases its non-farm payrolls report for April.

The drop in the loonie on Friday followed a slight rise Thursday amid a positive outlook for exports and comments from Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz that Canadians should expect cheap borrowing costs to last for years even after the central bank gets around to hiking interest rates.

On the commodity markets, June crude in new York gave back $1.34 to US$100.60 a barrel.

Geopolitical worries drove gold June bullion up $10.20 to US$1,300.80 an ounce, while May copper was unchanged at US$3.12 a pound.

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