Loonie falls amid weak U.S. economic data, BoC paper on monetary policy

TORONTO – The Canadian dollar was ended lower Thursday amid a round of disappointing U.S. economic reports and a commentary on monetary policy from the Bank of Canada.

The loonie fell 0.19 of a cent to 98.12 cents US.

Bob Gorman, a senior portfolio strategist with TD Wealth, said the loonie is on a downwards trajectory.

“We feel the loonie will likely lose some altitude, reflecting some lower economic growth we see south of the border, Canada’s trade numbers … (and not) a lot of support from commodities,” he said.

“The force of gravity will assert itself on the loonie going forward. We’ll see ourselves move something closer to fair value … probably bringing the loonie to the low 90s.”

In the U.S., the Labor Department reported that the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose by 32,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, the most since late March.

Although the U.S. has added an average of 208,000 jobs a month since November, many of the job gains have come from fewer layoffs — not increased hiring.

Meanwhile, U.S. inflation numbers also fell last month as a result of dropping gasoline prices. The consumer price index was down 0.4 per cent in April from March, while overall prices in the 12 months ended in April were up just 1.1 per cent — the smallest yearly increase in 2 1/2 years.

The rate is still below the U.S. Federal Reserve’s two per cent inflation target, which it wants to meet before ending its program of quantitative easing.

U.S. housing starts came in weaker than expected, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 853,000 in April. But applications for building permits rose 14.3 per cent to a rate of 1.02 million, the highest since June 2008.

Meanwhile, a Bank of Canada research paper said slashing interest rates and flooding markets with money through quantitative easing and other extraordinary measures appear to have worked.

But as central banks start pulling back their stimulative measures, the paper voiced concerns that the damage left behind in some sectors might become more apparent.

Commodities also ended the day mixed, as the June crude contract jumped 86 cents to US$95.16 a barrel, while July copper was up three cents at US$3.29 a pound. June gold bullion dropped $9.30 to US$1,386.90 an ounce.

Overseas markets were subdued after the European Union statistics office reported that nine of the 17 countries that use the euro are in recession, including France. The combined economy of the 17 countries shrank by 0.2 per cent in the first three months of 2013 compared to the prior quarter.