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Canadian dollar little changed ahead of employment, merchandise trade data

TORONTO - The Canadian dollar closed little changed Wednesday as traders looked ahead to key economic reports coming out over the next couple of days.

The loonie added 0.01 of a cent to 90.25 cents U.S. for a fifth day of gains.

On Thursday, traders will look to the release of the merchandise trade balance data for December. Economists expect the deficit to have narrowed to $650 million from $900 the previous month.

"Indications of a jump in U.S. customs receipts provide reason for optimism that some of the increase will be shared by Canadian firms, sending exports up $400 million in the month," said RBC assistant chief economist Paul Ferley.

"Some of the strength is also expected to reflect indications of oil prices rising in December, particularly the price of western Canadian oil, that will provide a boost to the nominal value of petroleum exports."

But the main focus is on the January jobs report, which comes out on Friday. Economists estimate the Canadian economy created about 20,000 jobs after the economy shed 44,000 in December.

Ahead of that data and the release at the end of the week of the U.S. government's jobs report, payroll firm ADP reported that the private sector created 175,000 jobs in the United States in January, about 15,000 short of what was forecast. Economists had been expecting that it would show that 190,000 jobs were added.

Also, the Institute for Supply Management said its non-manufacturing index showed rising expansion in January, coming in at 54, up a full point from December.

The loonie has now advance five consecutive sessions since hitting its worst levels in 4 1/2 years late last week.

Analysts point to data out at the end of last week showing the Canadian economy grew for a fifth straight month in November, up 0.2 per cent. Also, Scotiabank noted the markets are now pricing in a 16 per cent probability of an interest rate cut over the next 12 months, well off a 38 per cent probability on Jan. 10.

The loonie has also ridden a wave of optimism after a report from the U.S. State Department last week raised expectations that the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oilsands crude from Alberta to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast, will be approved. Such a move could give a boost to the energy sector.

On top of that, the International Monetary Fund expects the Canadian economy will grow 2.2 per cent this year, up from an estimated 1.7 per cent in 2013 as the U.S. continues to import rising volumes of oil from Canada.

On the commodity markets, the March crude contract in New York gained 19 cents to US$97.38 a barrel.

The March copper contract was unchanged at US$3.19 a pound while April gold bullion futures gained $5.70 to US$1,256.90 an ounce.

The Canadian Press


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