Loonie advances amid strong jobs report, commodities lower on Chinese data

TORONTO – The Canadian dollar closed higher Monday as the loonie continued to find some lift from Friday’s blowout jobs report.

The loonie rose 0.26 of a cent to 97.43 cents US after Statistics Canada reported that almost 51,000 jobs were created in February, much higher than the 7,500 or so that economists had expected.

There was also good news from Canada’s largest trading partner as U.S. job growth came in at 236,000 for the month, against the 165,000 that had been expected.

Prices for oil and metals shed early losses that resulted from data released over the weekend that showed lower than expected expansion in China’s economy at the beginning of the year.

April crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange was up 11 cents at US$92.06 a barrel, while May copper was up a cent at US$3.52 a pound. April gold bullion gained $1.10 to US$1,578 an ounce.

China’s industrial production was up 9.9 per cent year over year in January while retail sales rose 12.3 per cent in February. But both figures were below expectations and weaker than the previous months.

Worries also grew that China’s central bank is reining in lending as other figures showed that new loans came in at a less than expected 620 billion yuan.

On top of it all, inflation came in 3.2 per cent higher year over year in February, which was also higher than economists expected.

Analysts also cautioned that the Chinese numbers were likely impacted by the country’s Lunar New Year holiday period and suggested it would take a few more months of data to get a clearer picture.

On the domestic economic front, data coming out at the end of the week is expected to show the housing market in Canada is cooling at a faster pace. Existing home sales for February are expected to show a 12.5 per cent, year-over-year decline following a 5.2 per cent slide in January. Average prices for February are expected to slip one per cent.

In the U.S., investors will take in the February report on retail sales on Wednesday. Expectations are for a 0.5 per cent rise following a 0.1 per cent increase in January.

On Friday, the U.S. Consumer Price Index for February will be released. Economists forecast a 0.5 per cent rise, largely driven by higher gasoline prices.

Industrial production figures are also out Friday. They are expected to show a 0.6 per cent increase, led by auto production and mining.