Loonie advances, traders look to Canadian, U.S. jobs data being released Friday

TORONTO – The Canadian dollar closed higher Thursday amid a string of solid U.S. economic news this week and rising oil prices.

The loonie was up a third of a cent to 93.98 cents US as the greenback lost value against a variety of currencies.

The Canadian currency had sunk a quarter of a cent Wednesday to its lowest level since May 2010 after the Bank of Canada left rates unchanged and left markets with the impression that rate hikes were still a long way off.

Traders looked to Friday and the release of the latest employment report for Canada, where economists expect about 7,500 jobs were created in November.

But the major event of the week is the same-day release of the U.S. government’s non-farm payrolls report for last month.

Expectations for job creation have moved higher after payroll firm ADP reported Wednesday that the private sector added 215,000 jobs last month. Prior to that report, markets had expected job creation of about 183,000.

While a stronger report would be welcomed as another sign of an improving economy, it would also raise concerns that the Federal Reserve is getting close to cutting back on its US$85 billion of monthly bond purchases, a program that has kept long term rates low and supported a strong equity market rally this year.

There was further positive news on the U.S. jobs front Thursday. The Labor Department reported that applications for jobless benefits, which are a proxy for layoffs, dropped 23,000 last week to 296,000.

Other data out Thursday morning showed that U.S. gross domestic product for the third quarter was revised upward to an annualized rate of 3.6 per cent from 2.8 per cent.

In other market-related news, Bank of Canada senior deputy minister Tiff Macklem is leaving the central bank in the spring. Macklem was widely expected to win the contest for bank governor last June but was beaten out by Stephen Poloz. Macklem will become the dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto

On the commodity markets, oil prices advanced for a second day after a much larger than expected drawdown of U.S. supplies last week. The January crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 18 cents to US$97.38 a barrel.

Metals were lower as March copper declined two cents to US$3.23 after the American jobs data, along with strong housing and trade reports, helped push the metal up eight cents on Thursday.

December bullion fell $15.30 to US$1,231.90 an ounce.