CANADA FX DEBT-C$ dives to 12-month low as Fed tapering seen on track
* C$ at C$1.0372 vs US$, or 96.41 U.S. cents * Loonie hits weakest level since last June as US$ rallies * Flat domestic retail sales data helps push C$ lower * Fed hints of less stimulus to come gives US$ a big boost By Alastair Sharp TORONTO, May 22 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar lost more than a cent against its U.S. counterpart on Wednesday, hurt by a double whammy of soft domestic retail sales data and U.S. Federal Reserve hints that it might reduce its economic stimulus program soon. The plunge left the loonie, as Canada's currency is colloquially known, at its weakest level against the greenback since early June of last year. Traders saw little reason for the U.S. dollar to reverse its advance after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in congressional testimony that the central bank could scale back its $85 billion a month in bond-buying in the "next few meetings" if economic recovery continues. The release of minutes from the Fed's last meeting added to market sentiment that the U.S. central bank's so-called quantitative easing program may be wound down sooner rather than later. "Unless we see contradictory statements that say there will be absolutely no tapering of QE, I can't see the (U.S.) dollar backing off," said Blake Jespersen, a managing director of foreign exchange sales at BMO Capital Markets. The loonie ended the session at C$1.0372 to the greenback, or 96.41 U.S. cents, after earlier hitting an almost 12-month low of C$1.0388. It closed Tuesday's North American session at C$1.0268, or 97.39 U.S. cents. Canadian retail sales were unexpectedly flat in March as gasoline prices fell, but economists pointed to a sharp rise in volumes as evidence of a more robust economy. "The underlying reality is that whilst sales values were undermined by the influence of gasoline sales, the volumes were reasonably OK," said Jeremy Stretch, head of foreign exchange strategy at CIBC World Markets in London. The loonie fell early in the day on the retail sales figures, recovered a bit, and then was hammered by a flurry of Fed news. By way of illustrating the greenback's singular strength, the loonie was flat against its commodity-linked cousins, the Australian and New Zealand dollars, but slightly weaker against the euro and British pound . The price of Canadian government debt fell across the curve, reversing early gains, with longer-dated maturities bearing the heaviest brunt. The two-year bond slipped more than 4 Canadian cents to yield 1.030 percent, while the benchmark 10-year bond fell 46 Canadian cents to yield 1.964 percent.
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