Loonie lower: Markets mull Flaherty rate comments

Malcolm Morrison, The Canadian Press
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The loonie was off 0.2 of a cent to 93.79 cents US as traders also took in comments Sunday from finance minister Jim Flaherty that Canada could face global pressure to raise interest rates in 2014.

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[TORONTO, ON] - The Canadian dollar was lower this morning at the start of a heavy week for economic data.

The loonie was off 0.2 of a cent to 93.79 cents US as traders also took in comments Sunday from finance minister Jim Flaherty that Canada could face global pressure to raise interest rates in 2014.

The central bank has signalled that rate hikes are not likely until next year.

But pressure to raise rates could come sooner as the U.S. Federal Reserve lets up on its massive US$85 billion of bond purchases and the American economy improves, which in turn would help the domestic economy.

"I think the pressure will be there because the Fed in the U.S. should stop printing money, and taper off as they say," said Flaherty. "And the OECD and the IMF have both said to Canada (that) we ought to let our interest rates go up a bit."

Meanwhile, investors will take in the latest reading on the American non-manufacturing sector later this morning. It is expected the Institute for Supply Management's service sector index will come in at 55.1, an improvement from November's reading of 53.9.

Markets are also waiting to scrutinize the minutes of the Federal Reserve's December meeting mid-week. The Fed announced at that meeting it would start to cut back on its bond purchases, a key stimulus measure that kept long term rates low and supported a strong rally on markets last year, by $10 billion.

Traders will look for indications of when the Fed will accelerate that tapering and for the central bank's latest take on the economy.

The Fed said in December that further tapering would be linked to the economic recovery, in particular employment growth, so Friday's U.S. non-farm payrolls report is of special interest. Economists look for the economy to have created about 195,000 jobs during December.

Canadian employment figures also come out on Friday and the consensus called for the economy to have cranked out 13,000 jobs during the month.

Overseas, traders will take in the latest trade, inflation and loans data from China later in the week. Two surveys last week showed manufacturing activity has weakened in December, which analysts said pointed to a downturn in business cycle.

Commodities were mixed with the February crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange up 33 cents to US$94.29 a barrel.

Crude fell six per cent last week due to growing inventories in the U.S. and an expected recovery in Libyan production.

February bullion gained $1.70 to US$1,240.30 an ounce while March copper was down one cent to US$3.35 a pound.

Organizations: U.S. Federal Reserve, OECD, IMF Institute for Supply Management New York Mercantile Exchange

Geographic location: U.S., Canada, TORONTO China

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