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Rising Canadian Dollar could hit export outlook, affect monetary policy

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If the buoyant Canadian dollar continues to rise it could create headwinds for exports and business investment as well as affecting monetary policy, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem said on Thursday.

The currency has jumped about 4% since the central bank updated its projections in April, driven by surging commodity prices. Canada is a major exporter of energy, lumber, minerals and agricultural products. It hit a six-year high on Wednesday.

“We’ve highlighted that a stronger dollar does create some risk,” Macklem told reporters after a speech to university students in his most detailed comments yet about the potential drawbacks of a more muscular currency.

“If it moves a lot further, that could have a material impact on our outlook and it is something we have to take into account in our setting of monetary policy.”

Further gains could drag down export projections. “If we’re less competitive, our export profile is weaker, that also probably means that our investment profile will be weaker,” he said.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.4% lower at 1.2180 to the greenback, or 82.10 U.S. cents, pressured by a sharp decline in oil prices.

Macklem earlier said that some of the monetary policy tools the bank is using to address the COVID-19 pandemic, such as quantitative easing (QE), could widen wealth inequality and that it was looking closely at the issue.

While the QE program has stimulated demand and helped create jobs, it was is boosting wealth by inflating the value of assets that “aren’t distributed evenly across society”, he said.

The bank had been buying C$4 billion ($3.3 billion) of government bonds a week but last month cut that to C$3 billion, becoming the first major central bank to trim a pandemic-era money-printing stimulus program.

It also signaled it could start lifting interest rates in late 2022, as it hiked the outlook for the Canadian economy.

Macklem reiterated Thursday that the benchmark rate would stay at its current record low 0.25% until inflation was sustainably at the 2% target. The bank, he added, would continue to use monetary policy tools to support a “complete recovery.”

(Additional reporting by Fergal Smith in Toronto; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and John Stonestreet)

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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Canadian dollar

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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