CANADA FX DEBT-C$ rallies 2 pct in first quarter of 2012
* C$ ends at C$0.9975 vs US$, or $1.0025 * Up down 0.8 pct for month, up 2 pct for quarter * Bond prices mostly higher By Jon Cook TORONTO, March 30 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar's momentum stalled in March as the rally in equity markets ebbed on global growth concerns, but the resource-heavy currency still finished the first quarter up nearly 2 percent against its U.S. counterpart. On Friday the Canadian dollar slid against most major currencies as investors rebalanced their portfolios ahead of the end of the first quarter and sold Canadian dollar positions. "Our investors are choosing to play in other currency pairs which actually move a little more," said Blake Jespersen, managing director, foreign exchange sales at BMO Capital Markets. BNY Mellon custody data showed that riskier currencies like the Canadian dollar, Australian dollar, and Norwegian dollar were being sold as caution persisted in the currency market heading into the weekend. The Canadian dollar ended the North American session at C$0.9975 versus the U.S. dollar, or $1.0025, down slightly from Thursday's close at C$0.9967 against the U.S. currency, or $1.0033. It was up 0.1 percent for the week, but down 0.8 percent in March. However the currency gained almost 2 percent in the first quarter as stabilization of Europe's debt crisis and a strengthening U.S. economy pushed global equity markets higher to start the year. But a recent reduction in China's growth target and softening U.S. data has taken some of the shine off commodities and weakened the Canadian dollar. U.S. data on Friday did little to push the currency from its recent narrow range. Gains were capped, however, after the pace of business activity in the Midwest slowed and gains in consumer spending outstripped an increase in income. "We have a lot of conflicting data points, a lot of conflicting news," said Camilla Sutton, chief currency strategist at Scotia Capital. "There's no catalyst to break things out of month-long ranges." Sutton noted however that the Canadian budget delivered on Thursday was still positive news for the currency medium-term, enforcing Canada's reputation as an AAA-rated sovereign. Canadian data also failed to prompt as much buzz as news on Thursday that Canada would withdraw its one-cent coin from circulation. Domestic economic growth slowed in January to 0.1 percent as strength in manufacturing and financial services was partially offset by a decline in natural gas extraction, Statistics Canada said on Friday. "If we do start to see the U.S. data soften slightly it will be bad news for the Canadian dollar," said Jespersen. Risk sentiment improved after debt-ravaged Spain presented a budget projected to save more than 27 billion euros ($35.96 billion) in 2012 through spending cuts and revenue increases, while euro zone finance ministers agreed to raise their financial firewall to contain the region's debt crisis. Canadian bond prices were lower across the curve, mimicking a drop in U.S. Treasuries, which marking the end of a turbulent first quarter. Canada's 2-year bond dipped 4 Canadian cents to yield 1.200 percent, while the 10-year bond slipped 31 Canadian cents to yield 2.118 percent.
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