CANADA FX DEBT-C$ weakens into month-end after posting earlier 5-month high

Thu Mar 31, 2016 4:59pm EDT
 
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* Canadian dollar ended at C$1.2987, or 77.00 U.S. cents
    * The loonie rose 6.5 percent in the first quarter
    * It touched its strongest since Oct. 16 at C$1.2859
    * Bond prices mixed across the maturity curve

    By Fergal Smith
    TORONTO, March 31 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar weakened
slightly against its U.S. counterpart on Thursday, turning lower
on month-end transactions after strong domestic data helped
drive the currency to a five-month high earlier.
    Month-end buying of U.S. dollars was accompanied by
unwillingness to be short the greenback ahead of Friday's U.S.
employment report, according to analysts.
    "I think this is nothing more than a month-end, quarter-end
short-squeeze with a little U.S. dollar demand," said Patric
Booth, head of derivatives trading at Velocity Trade.
    Still, the Canadian dollar ended the first quarter 6.5
percent higher than at the end of 2015. It has rallied more than
13 percent since hitting a 12-year low in January at C$1.4689,
helped by recovery in crude oil prices, stabilization in
financial markets and reduced expectations for Bank of Canada
rate cuts.
    It approached key resistance between C$1.2800 and C$1.2830,
according to Bipan Rai, executive director, macro strategy at
CIBC Capital Markets.
    "The inability to close below there for today implies
further consolidation to come," he added, suggesting there may
be a cap on the upside for the currency.       
    Canada's economy grew by a much larger-than-expected 0.6
percent in January. It was the fourth straight monthly gain and
the biggest since July 2013. 
    That puts the economy on track to grow much faster than the
Bank of Canada's 1 percent estimate for the first quarter,
according to Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at Royal
Bank of Canada.
    The implied probability of a rate cut this year dropped to
less than 20 percent from 26 percent before the data. It was
more than 50 percent at the start of the month. 
    The Canadian dollar ended at C$1.2987 to the
greenback, or 77.00 U.S. cents, weaker than Wednesday's close of
C$1.2965, or 77.13 U.S. cents.
    The currency's weakest level of the session was C$1.3012,
while it touched its strongest since Oct. 16 at C$1.2859.
    U.S. crude prices were down 0.47 percent at $38.14 a
barrel, but still posting large monthly gains. 
    Canadian government bond prices were mixed across the
maturity curve, with the two-year price down 2
Canadian cents to yield 0.544 percent and the benchmark 10-year
 falling 6 Canadian cents to yield 1.232 percent.
    The Canada-U.S. two-year bond spread narrowed 5.1 basis
points to -18.1 basis points, its least negative since Nov. 3.
Meanwhile, the 10-year spread was 6 basis points narrower at
-54.5 basis points, its least negative since Oct. 20, as
Canadian government bonds underperformed.

 (Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and
Andrew Hay)