CANADA FX DEBT-C$ firms a bit in light pre-Christmas trade
* Canadian dollar at C$1.1623 or 86.04 U.S. cents * Bond prices mostly lower across the maturity curve (Adds details, quote, updates prices) By Leah Schnurr OTTAWA, Dec 24 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar firmed slightly against the greenback on Wednesday as market participants booked profits in the U.S. currency ahead of the Christmas holidays. The loonie stuck to a tight range in light volume. Canadian and U.S. bond and equity markets were open for only half the day. Canadian markets will be closed on Thursday and Friday for the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays. A slight decline for the U.S. dollar helped the Canadian dollar, which has tumbled in recent months in the face of plunging oil prices and broad investor favor for the greenback. "It's a little bit of profit-taking, maybe a little bit of positioning-squaring heading into holidays, and not really a thematic play," said Camilla Sutton, chief currency strategist at Scotiabank in Toronto. The Canadian dollar ended at C$1.1623 to the greenback, or 86.04 U.S. cents, according to the official close from the Bank of Canada. That was a tad stronger than Tuesday's C$1.1630, or 85.98 U.S. cents. Still, the gains were minuscule compared with the rout of the Canadian dollar over the past six months as the currency has fallen with the price of oil, a major Canadian export. It has shed 8.6 percent for 2014, on track for its worst year since 2008. Analysts expect the Canadian dollar will weaken further as 2015 gets underway. With the U.S. Federal Reserve likely to raise interest rates next year, investor appetite for the U.S. dollar is set to be renewed to the detriment of the loonie. A stronger U.S. economy, as evidenced by this week's 5 percent annualized pace of growth in the third quarter, will also benefit the greenback. "While Canada looks to do better against the other majors, like the euro, sterling, even the Australian dollar, that will essentially give it a little bit of protection against U.S. dollar strength, but there really is no place to hide from the big dollar in 2015," said Brad Schruder, director of foreign exchange sales at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto. "It's impossible to ignore the strength of the U.S. economy." Canadian government bond prices were mostly lower across the maturity curve, with the two-year down half a Canadian cent to yield 1.058 percent and the benchmark 10-year down 6 Canadian cents to yield 1.911 percent. The bond market was scheduled to close at 1:00 p.m. EST (1800 GMT). (Editing by Peter Galloway)
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