Loonie falls half a cent against strong U.S. dollar, pressure from declining oil

TORONTO – The Canadian dollar closed at its lowest level in more than a month Thursday as it faced continued pressure from a strengthening U.S. currency and falling oil prices.

The loonie fell for a third straight session, giving back 0.48 of a U.S. cent to 76.31 cents US. The last time it finished below that was on April 7 when it closed at 76.08 cents US.

Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at CMC Markets Canada, said the U.S. greenback strengthened amid signs that the U.S. Federal Reserve may raise interest rates as early as June.

“There’s been a big rally in the U.S. dollar obviously since the Fed minutes came out Wednesday so that is depressing all currencies,” he said. “Canada, more than some others, because it took down the oil price as well.”

Cieszynski added that there could also be sizable moves in the Canadian dollar on Friday when Statistics Canada releases reports on consumer prices and retail sales.

In commodities, the July contract for North American benchmark crude lost 11 cents to US$48.67 a barrel, while June natural gas rallied four cents to US$2.04 per mmBtu.

The June contract for gold bullion was down $19.60 at US$1,254.80 a troy ounce, settling at its lowest price since April 27. July copper shed two cents to US$2.06 a pound.

The negative sentiment on commodities had little effect on the Toronto stock market, which ended the day little changed, finding support from materials, gold and consumer staples stocks. The S&P/TSX composite index dipped 8.69 points to 13,817.32.

In New York, traders continued to digest hints from the Fed on a rate hike coming earlier than previously expected.

On Wednesday, the central bank released minutes that showed its policy-makers believe it “likely would be appropriate” to raise rates at its next meeting on June 14-15 should growth in the economy and employment remain on track.

Low interest rates have been credited with buoying stock markets since the Great Recession. The Fed boosted its key policy for the first time in nearly a decade in December but has since held back as financial market turmoil in January slowed U.S. growth.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 91.22 points to 17,435.40, while the broader S&P 500 fell 7.59 points to 2,040.04. The Nasdaq composite lost 26.59 points to 4,712.53.

“It’s a bit of a warning shot from them (the Fed) to investors to not get carried away thinking that rates are going to stay low forever,” said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at 3MACS. “It also curbs speculative activity.”

— With a file from The Associated Press.

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