Canadian dollar lower as jobs data disappoints, energy prices decline further

TORONTO – The Canadian dollar closed lower Friday as the latest jobs and housing data missed expectations.

The loonie declined 0.22 of a cent to 84.27 cents US as Statistics Canada reported that the country lost 4,300 jobs in December, although the national unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.6 per cent. Economists had expected the economy to have cranked out 15,000 jobs last month.

The news was far more encouraging from the U.S. as the economy created 252,000 positions, comfortably above the consensus of 230,000. Also, the jobless rate fell to 5.6 per cent from 5.8 per cent.

Other data out Friday morning showed a deeper than expected slowdown in housing starts in December. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. reported that starts came in at an annualized pace of 180,560, down from 193,199 in November and much lower than the 193,500 starts that economists expected.

Oil prices were lower following two days of gains with the February contract in New York down 43 cents to US$48.36 a barrel. Oil prices are down more than 50 per cent from summertime highs and down eight per cent just since Dec. 31 as the global economy works through a huge oversupply of crude, a situation analysts believe will take months to sort out.

The market has come around to the view that prices won’t recover as quickly as previously hoped. There had been hopes as recently as December that prices would pop back up above US$60 by mid year but as of Friday the January 2016 contract on the CME shows West Texas Intermediate futures are sitting around US$55 a barrel.

Elsewhere on the commodity markets, March copper was down two cents to US$2.75 a pound while February gold bullion was up $7.60 to US$1,216.10 an ounce.

In economic developments overseas, German industrial production slipped unexpectedly in November but experts say the country is still on track for overall economic growth in the fourth quarter. Production dropped 0.1 per cent in November from the previous month in seasonally adjusted terms, while economists had been predicting an 0.3 per cent rise.

China’s consumer inflation edged up in December despite the slump in global oil prices but was still well below the official target.

Prices rose 1.5 per cent from a year earlier, up from November’s 1.4 per cent increase, driven by sharp increases in the price of some food items, including 14 per cent for eggs and 10.4 per cent for fresh fruit. For 2014, consumer prices rose two per cent, well below the official target of 3.5 per cent.

Lower inflation gives Beijing room to cut interest rates or take other steps, if needed, to revive growth that slowed to a five-year low of 7.3 per cent in the most recent quarter.