Loonie moves lower as markets await further talks to resolve US budget concerns

TORONTO – The Canadian dollar inched lower Wednesday as concern about the so-called “fiscal cliff” continued to loom over the U.S. economy.

The loonie was down 0.09 of a cent to 101.36 cents US near midday.

While traders appear confident that President Barack Obama and Republican leaders will agree on a plan to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a deal has yet to be reached.

The uncertainty appears to be slowly wearing on some of the stock market confidence that has characterized recent sessions.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Commerce Department said builders broke ground on fewer houses in November, likely in part due to superstorm Sandy in the Northeast.

The report said builders began construction of homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 861,000. That was three per cent lower than October’s annual rate of 888,000, although observers noted that the October figure was the highest since July 2008.

And the Teranet-National Bank index of Canadian housing prices fell in November compared with October’s reading — only the fourth time in 13 years of data collection that there has been a decline between the two months.

The composite index covering 11 major urban centres stood at 154.02 last month, down 0.4 per cent from October. Ten of 11 local markets tracked showed declines.

In commodities, the January crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose $1.54 to US$89.47 a barrel.

March copper declined about four cents to US$3.61 a pound while February gold bullion moved ahead $3 to US$1,673.70 an ounce.