5 Min Read
* C$ firms to C$0.9626, or $1.0389, highest since Nov, 2007
* No technical barriers seen between new levels, '07 high
* Bonds mostly fall as investors shed safe-haven assets
* US employment jump boosts BoC rate hike expectations (Updates with more details, comment)
By Solarina Ho
TORONTO, April 1 (Reuters) - Canada's dollar charted fresh three-year highs against the U.S. currency on Friday, braced by soaring oil prices and a robust U.S. jobs report that underpinned hopes of a definitive economic recovery.
The currency CAD=D4 touched its highest level since November 2007, hitting C$0.9626 to the U.S. dollar, or $1.0389, after data showed U.S. nonfarm payrolls notched a second straight month of solid gains in March. [ID:nOAT004775]
Some analysts thought the report marked a decisive shift in the U.S. labor market that should strengthen the economy of Canada's largest trading partner. It was also seen boosting the likelihood of Canadian rate hikes, which could attract capital flows.
"From a technical point of view, there isn't any real notable levels between here and C$0.9060, so it's quite a lot of open water here now," said Shaun Osborne, a chief currency strategist at TD Securities.
At 1:06 p.m. (1706 GMT), the Canadian currency CAD=D4 stood at C$0.9640 to the U.S. dollar, or $1.0373, up from Thursday's close of C$0.9696 to the U.S. dollar, or $1.0314.
Highflying energy prices drove the Canadian dollar to a modern-day high of C$0.9059, or US$1.1039 in November 2007, according to Thomson Reuters dealing data. But a sell-off in commodities following the global financial crisis sent the currency plunging 18.6 percent the following year.
Oil, a major Canadian export, provided solid support for the commodity-linked Canadian dollar on Friday, though trading was volatile. The unexpectedly strong data also triggered the possibility of a pull back from loose monetary policy and a stronger U.S. dollar. Fighting in Libya, an OPEC producer, remained a rallying point. [O/R]
"The technicals still favor a higher Canada. I think it will be a slow grind higher based on the strong oil prices and prospects of global recovery, which will get more traction I think ... because of the U.S. employment data," said Michael O'Neill, managing director at Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange.
TD Securities' Osborne saw some U.S. dollar support at around C$0.9625 to C$0.9630 in the very near term. He noted the C$0.9715 to C$0.9750 collection of lows hit in late 2007 and early 2008 were the "last line of defense" from a technical point of view.
"It's going to be quite a struggle to get back above the low to mid C$0.9700 range," said Osborne. "I think the C$0.9750 area is probably going to be quite pivotal for USD/CAD from a medium to longer term point of view."
He noted that a move back toward that range could delay or forestall further strength in the Canadian dollar, but that appeared to be a challenge for the markets at the moment, with the underlying trend momentum still quite strong.
RATE HIKE EXPECTATIONS FIRM
Canadian bond prices were mostly lower, as investors shed safe-haven assets for stocks and other riskier bets. They underperformed U.S. Treasuries, which rose after a top U.S. Federal Reserve official said he saw no reason to alter course on monetary policy despite the employment data. [US/]
Swap markets showed traders pricing in a higher likelihood of Canadian interest rate hikes at every policy-announcement date from May 31 to Dec 6, with the odds of a September rate hike fully priced in.
Traders maintained bets that there is almost no chance the central bank will raise rates in April. Odds of a May hike were also seen as low. BOCWATCH
The two-year bond CA2YT=RR fell 3 Canadian cents to yield 1.845 percent, while the 10-year bond CA10YT=RR lost 20 Canadian cents to yield 3.378 percent. (With additional reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)