Loonie closes lower, traders look to Ontario budget, Chinese manufacturing data

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TORONTO – The Canadian dollar closed slightly lower Thursday as traders looked to mixed economic data and a key provincial budget that came down after markets closed.

The loonie was down 0.01 of a cent at 91.23 cents US.

It’s a quiet day for Canadian economic data but traders looked to the contents of the Ontario budget presented after the close by the province’s minority Liberal government.

The Liberals are expecting to spend $12.5 billion more than they take in this year, up from $11.3 billion last year and the $10.1 billion projected in their 2013 budget.

“The immediate questions will likely be: Will the budget get support from the opposition? And if so, will any backsliding in the fiscal plan fly under the credit ratings agencies’ radar?” said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Michael Gregory.

“Recall that (ratings agency) S&P placed a negative outlook on Ontario’s AA- rating after the 2012 budget.”

Meanwhile, data showed that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose 14,000 to 344,000 last week, the highest level since February. That was unwelcome news a day before the U.S. government releases its non-farm payrolls report for April on Friday.

Other data from the Institute for Supply Management showed that its manufacturing index rose to 54.9 from 53.7 in March as U.S. exports picked up and factories accelerated hiring.

Meanwhile, a survey of Chinese manufacturers showed activity grew weakly in April.

The government-sanctioned China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said Thursday that its monthly purchasing managers index stood at 50.4 points, up marginally from March’s 50.3 points. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The showing comes as investors wonder if China can maintain growth at the official target of 7.5 per cent.

A separate survey earlier by HSBC Corp. showed April manufacturing activity shrank for a fourth straight month.

July copper edged a penny lower to US$3.02 a pound, the June crude contract in New York fell 32 cents to US$99.42 a barrel and June gold bullion fell $12.50 to US$1,283.40 an ounce.

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