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Canadian dollar closes higher as markets focus on geopolitical concerns

TORONTO - The Canadian dollar closed higher Monday as geopolitical tensions weighted on financial markets.

The Canadian dollar was up 0.06 of a cent to 93.2 cents US as traders assessed the likelihood of additional sanctions against Russia for its support of Ukrainian rebels accused of shooting down a Malaysian airliner on Thursday.

The disaster, in an area controlled by pro-Russian separatists, has sparked international condemnation and increased pressure on Russia to stop meddling in Ukraine. Russian officials have blamed Ukraine’s government for creating the situation and atmosphere in which the plane was downed by a sophisticated surface to air missile.

President Barack Obama called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to compel Kremlin-backed separatists to allow international investigators unfettered access to the crash site. But he held off on announcing new sanctions.

There have been calls for another round of sanctions that would target entire industries, but there are worries that such action would serve to undermine what is still a very fragile economic recovery in Europe.

Markets were also focused on Israel's ground offensive against Gaza.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said Monday that he is prepared to continue the offensive "as long as necessary" to halt rocket fire and other attacks from Gaza on Israelis.

Israel accepted an Egyptian call for an unconditional ceasefire last week, but resumed its offensive after Hamas rejected the proposal.

Hamas says that before halting fire it wants guarantees that Israel and Egypt will significantly ease a seven-year border blockade of Gaza.

Meanwhile, it's a rather thin week for economic data. The major Canadian event is the May reading on retail sales. Economists expect Statistics Canada to report Wednesday that sales rose 0.5 per cent for the month.

In the U.S., traders will digest the latest data on inflation, home sales and durable goods orders.

On the commodity markets, August crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange added $1.46 to US$104.59 a barrel.

Traders looking for safety pushed August gold up $4.50 to US$1,313.90 an ounce, while September copper gained one cent to US$3.20 a pound.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story: A previous version said the Malaysian plane was shot down last Friday

The Canadian Press

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