Canadian dollar rises amid positive U.S. employment news, mixed commodities

TORONTO – The Canadian dollar closed higher Thursday amid higher commodity prices and positive economic data.

The loonie was up 0.48 of a cent at 97.82 cents US.

Statistics Canada reported that its price index for new homes rose 0.1 per cent in January.

That showing followed a 0.2 per cent increase in December.

The metropolitan region of Toronto and Oshawa, as well as the Calgary region, were the top contributors to the increase.

Meanwhile, the federal agency also reported that Canadian industries operated at 80.7 per cent of their production capacity in the fourth quarter, down slightly from the 81.1 per cent in the third quarter. The decline was a result of lower capacity utilization in the manufacturing sector.

That, in turn, was largely attributable to the transportation equipment manufacturing industry, where capacity utilization fell 3.5 percentage points to 88.9 per cent in the quarter. Factoring in that were longer than usual seasonal shutdowns in the auto sector.

In the U.S., fewer Americans sought unemployment aid last week, reducing the average number of weekly applications last month to a five-year low.

The Labour Department says applications fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 332,000. That pushed the four-week average to 346,750, the lowest since March 2008, just several months after the Great Recession began.

Commodities were higher following declines on Wednesday.

Oil prices moved into positive territory after the employment data was released and the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 51 cents to US$93.03 a barrel.

April gold bullion gained $2.30 to US$1,590.70 an ounce while May copper gained a cent to US$3.54 a pound.