CANADA FX DEBT-C$ slips with crude, markets eye Fed minutes
* Canadian dollar at C$1.2444 or 80.36 U.S. cents * Bond prices mixed across the maturity curve By Solarina Ho TORONTO, Feb 18 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar softened against the greenback on Wednesday, as the market awaited the minutes of the most recent Federal Reserve meeting and crude prices retreated. Markets were also digesting a flurry of data, mostly out of the U.S., including figures that showed plunging crude prices were keeping a lid on inflation, which could argue against an interest rate hike by the Fed. U.S. housing starts fell in January as ground breaking for single-family projects slipped off a 6-1/2 year high. In Canada, wholesale trade jumped a more-than-expected 2.5 percent to C$55.4 billion in December on widespread gains across the sectors. "They seemed to more or less cancel each other out ... We're just looking for the Fed to set the tone," said David Tulk, chief Canada macro strategist at TD Securities. "There is also the issues around Greece - trying to weigh the different cross currents where the Fed will be upbeat and everyone else is more worried." Greece said it will request a loan extension from its EU creditors, but Germany says no such deal is on offer and that Athens much stick to the term of its exiting international bailout. At 9:35 a.m. (1435 GMT), the Canadian dollar was at C$1.2444 to the greenback, or 80.36 U.S. cents, weaker than Tuesday's close of C$1.2374, or 80.81 U.S. cents. The price of oil, a key Canadian export and a main currency driver, has risen more than 35 percent since hitting near six-year lows in January, but retreated on Wednesday as analysts speculated that a recent rally was overblown. Minutes of the latest Fed meeting will be released later on Wednesday and investors will be search for clues as to when the central bank will start hiking interest rates. Currently, markets are mostly expecting the first hike early in the second half of this year. Canadian government bond prices were mixed across the maturity curve, but the two-year was up half a Canadian cent to yield 0.454 percent, and the benchmark 10-year rose 17 Canadian cents to yield 1.488 percent. (Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)
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