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Dollar steadies before Fed minutes

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The U.S. dollar steadied but remained near a six-year low against its Canadian counterpart and nursed losses against European currencies as expectations that U.S. interest rates will remain low undermined the greenback.

The minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s most recent meeting due later on Wednesday are expected to confirm that policymakers think a rate hike is still in the distance.

Investors will also be scrutinising consumer price data in Britain and Canada later in the trading day to determine how quickly major economies will be forced to rein in their accommodative monetary policy, which holds the key to the dollar’s trend in the medium term.

“I’m most concerned about the relative strength of inflation,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

“The recent release of U.S. consumer prices printed quite high. If Britain and Canada remain below that level, it suggests the pace of normalisation in the United States will be faster. Dollar selling may not last much longer.”

Against the Canadian dollar, the greenback traded at C$1.2076, close to its weakest since May 2015.

The British pound bought $1.4182, which was near its strongest level since late February.

The euro was steady at $1.2219.

The dollar was little changed at 109.02 yen and 0.8982 Swiss franc.

Data last week showing U.S. consumer prices rose 4.2% in April from a year earlier was the fastest increase in more than a decade, which stunned investors.

Fed policymakers have said this is a temporary spike and reiterated that they expect interest rates to remain low, which has taken some steam out of the dollar, but not all are convinced by the Fed’s persuasion.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was quoted at 89.833, close to the lowest since late February.

Expectations for policy tightening in Canada and the gradual lifting of coronavirus restrictions in Britain have lifted both countries’ currencies, but any suggestion of benign inflation could help the greenback recoup some of its losses.

Elsewhere, the Australian and New Zealand dollars eased slightly as the Antipodeans struggled to break through heavy technical resistance, but sentiment remains positive due to rising commodity prices, some traders said.

In the cryptocurrency market, bitcoin fell to a three-month low of $40,548, and rival digital currency ether dropped 5.7% to $3,197 amid market jitters after China banned its financial institutions and payment companies from providing services related to cryptocurrency transactions.

 

(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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Economy

Canadian retail sales slide in April, May as COVID-19 shutdown bites

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december retail sales

Canadian retail sales plunged in April and May, as shops and other businesses were shuttered amid a third wave of COVID-19 infections, Statistics Canada data showed on Wednesday.

Retail trade fell 5.7% in April, the sharpest decline in a year, missing analyst forecasts of a 5.0% drop. In a preliminary estimate, Statscan said May retail sales likely fell by 3.2% as store closures dragged on.

“April showers brought no May flowers for Canadian retailers this year,” Royce Mendes, senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said in a note.

Statscan said that 5.0% of retailers were closed at some point in April. The average length of the closure was one day, it said, citing respondent feedback.

Sales decreased in nine of the 11 subsectors, while core sales, which exclude gasoline stations and motor vehicles, were down 7.6% in April.

Clothing and accessory store sales fell 28.6%, with sales at building material and garden equipment stores falling for the first time in nine months, by 10.4%.

“These results continue to suggest that the Bank of Canada is too optimistic on the growth outlook for the second quarter, even if there is a solid rebound occurring now in June,” Mendes said.

The central bank said in April that it expects Canada’s economy to grow 6.5% in 2021 and signaled interest rates could begin to rise in the second half of 2022.

The Canadian dollar held on to earlier gains after the data, trading up 0.3% at 1.2271 to the greenback, or 81.49 U.S. cents.

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa, additional reporting by Fergal Smith in Toronto, editing by Alexander Smith)

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Economy

Canadian dollar notches a 6-day high

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The Canadian dollar strengthened for a third day against its U.S. counterpart on Wednesday, as oil prices rose and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reassured markets that the central bank is not rushing to hike rates.

Markets were rattled last week when the Fed shifted to more hawkish guidance. But Powell on Tuesday said the economic recovery required more time before any tapering of stimulus and higher borrowing costs are appropriate, helping Wall Street recoup last week’s decline.

Canada is a major producer of commodities, including oil, so its economy is highly geared to the economic cycle.

Brent crude rose above $75 a barrel, reaching its highest since late 2018, after an industry report on U.S. crude inventories reinforced views of a tightening market as travel picks up in Europe and North America.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.3% higher at 1.2271 to the greenback, or 81.49 U.S. cents, after touching its strongest level since last Thursday at 1.2265.

The currency also gained ground on Monday and Tuesday, clawing back some of its decline from last week.

Canadian retail sales fell by 5.7% in April from March as provincial governments put in place restrictions to tackle a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistics Canada said. A flash estimate showed sales down 3.2% in May.

Still, the Bank of Canada expects consumer spending to lead a strong rebound in the domestic economy as vaccinations climb and containment measures ease.

Canadian government bond yields were mixed across a steeper curve, with the 10-year up nearly 1 basis point at 1.416%. Last Friday, it touched a 3-1/2-month low at 1.364%.

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Economy

Toronto Stock Exchange higher at open as energy stocks gain

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Toronto Stock Exchange edged higher at open on Wednesday as heavyweight energy stocks advanced, while data showing a plunge in domestic retail sales in April and May capped the gains.

* At 9:30 a.m. ET (13:30 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 16.77 points, or 0.08%, at 20,217.42.

(Reporting by Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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