Loonie posts gain amid Fed statement and uncertainty over Europe

TORONTO – The Canadian dollar posted a small gain Wednesday after the U.S. central bank confirmed that its efforts to stimulate the economy will continue.

The loonie was at $97.52 cents US, up 0.15 of a cent from the previous close.

Canada’s dollar had been as high as 97.63 cents US early in the morning but its strength waned later in the session.

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s top policy-making committee closed a two-day meeting with an afternoon statement that said the U.S. economy has strengthened after pausing late last year but still needs extraordinary support.

The Fed stood by its plan to keep its short-term rates at record lows at least until U.S. unemployment falls to 6.5 per cent, as long as the inflation outlook remains mild.

And it says it will continue buying $85 billion a month in bonds indefinitely to keep long-term borrowing costs down.

Canada’s currency had fallen Tuesday amid concerns about the destabilizing effect of a banking crisis in Cyprus, where the government is seeking a bailout. Cypriot banks will remain closed until at least Friday to calm the situation.

“Obviously, Cyprus in and of itself does not represent a tipping point for the global economy or the financials in Europe, but I think what has the markets’ attention and rightfully so, is that one, it represents that the European crisis continues on,” said Craig Fehr, Canadian market strategist with Edward Jones.

“It also highlights there are still bigger issues here at play… (such as) the potential for these types of issues to bleed over into much larger countries such as Spain and Italy have really rattled the cages of the markets more recently.”

In commodities, the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange jumped 80 cents to $92.96 a barrel, while April gold bullion fell $3.80 to US$1,607.50 an ounce.