* Risk aversion pushes C$ to near 2-wk low at 79.05 cents
* Bonds win safety bid as stocks slump
* BoC’s Carney makes no reference to policy in speech (Updates to close)
By Ka Yan Ng
TORONTO, March 30 (Reuters) - The threat of bankruptcy at General Motors (GM.N) and Chrysler drove the Canadian dollar to almost a two-week low against the U.S. currency on Monday as the greenback benefited from a flight to safety, as did bonds.
The distress in the auto industry also stung stock markets and the price of oil, and helped to push the Canadian dollar as low C$1.2650 to the U.S. dollar, or 79.05 U.S. cents, a mark not seen since March 18.
The currency finished at C$1.2618 to the U.S. dollar, or 79.25 U.S. cents, down sharply from C$1.2374 to the U.S. dollar, or 80.81 U.S. cents, at Friday’s close.
“Commodity markets are down significantly, equities and risk are down as well,” said Jack Spitz, managing director of foreign exchange at National Bank Financial. “It’s no surprise to see the Canadian dollar weaker.”
World stocks slumped as U.S. President Barack Obama prescribed harsher-than-expected medicine for GM and Chrysler, rejecting their turnaround plans and acknowledging the bankruptcy is not out of the question. Concerns about the banking sector in Europe also hit sentiment. For more see [ID:nLU230709] and [ID:nN29520526].
In Canada, the government also rejected Chrysler and GM’s plans, but offered bridge loans to tide the companies over while they restructure. [ID:nN30348498]
The price of oil fell more than 7 percent to below $49 a barrel on Monday amid the tumble in global equity markets. Canada is a major exporter of oil and the currency often tracks the movement of oil prices.
Meanwhile, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney made no mention of Canadian monetary policy or the economic outlook in remarks to the University of Alberta School of Business in Edmonton, Alberta.
The speech disappointed some market players looking for clues about the Bank of Canada’s next policy move, whether it be another interest rate cut or a foray into asset purchases.
Carney, who has another speech scheduled for Wednesday, sidestepped the subject entirely and stressed system-wide financial reform. After the speech, he said that he expected no change in the world’s reserve currency any time soon, reacting to proposals for replacing the U.S. dollar as the world’s main reserve currency. See story [ID:nN30331272]. See full text of speech [ID:nN02377767].
Canadian government bonds blitzed higher across the curve in a flight-to-safety bid as the troubles in the auto industry trampled sentiment toward riskier assets such as stocks.
While the auto industry news was the main driver in the bond market’s rally on Monday, there was a brief pullback once the U.S. Federal Reserve had finished buying long-dated Treasuries. [ID:nN30341013]
“If there was one disappointment, it was that the buyback of the U.S. long bond wasn’t as big as the Street had hoped for. But pretty much the weak equity markets were the driving force today,” said Sheldon Dong, fixed income analyst at TD Waterhouse Private Investment.
He said there were few domestic factors influencing the Canadian bond market, but “a lot of moving parts” -- including the upcoming European Central Bank interest rate decision, U.S. jobs figures, and the summit of the Group of 20 leading economies in London.
Canada’s January gross domestic product data, due Tuesday, is expected to show a 0.7 percent decline, following the 1.0 percent drop in December.
The two-year bond jumped 13 Canadian cents to C$100.29 to yield 1.114 percent. The 10-year bond gained C$1.02 to C$108.17 to yield 2.819 percent.
The 30-year bond surged C$1.27 to C$124.77 to yield 3.594 percent. The U.S. 30-year bond yielded 3.601 percent.
Canada bonds outperformed mostly across the curve, except in the two-year maturity. The 30-year bond yield was 7 basis points below its U.S. counterpart, compared with 3.9 basis points above on Friday. (Editing by Peter Galloway)