TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar closed slightly stronger versus the U.S. currency on Thursday, tracking a rebound in world equity markets after a drop in U.S. jobless claims increased optimism about the outlook for Canada's main trading partner.
The resources-linked currency was also helped by positive jobs data from fellow metals exporter Australia and by Standard & Poor's ratings downgrade of Spain, which traders calculated would push the country to seek aid and unleash a bond-buying program by the European Central Bank.
"The market's still on a sugar high that this ECB bond-buying program is going to be the cure for Europe's problems," said Gareth Sylvester, a senior currency strategist at Klarity FX in San Francisco.
The Canadian currency closed at C$0.9787 to the greenback, or $1.0218, up from its North American close of C$0.9807, or C$1.0197, on Wednesday.
Canada's dollar was helped by news that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to the lowest level in more than 4-1/2 years.
A narrower-than-expected Canadian trade deficit also helped support the currency below C$0.98 to the greenback, though a drop in imports suggested an economy struggling to cope with weak international markets and slowing domestic demand.
Additional support came from stronger metal and energy prices. Copper bounced from two-week lows, gold snapped a four-day slip and oil prices rose to their highest levels in weeks. <GOL/> <O/R> <MET/L>
"The Spain downgrade caught a few people off guard," said Steve Butler, director of foreign exchange trading at Scotiabank. "But risk has come roaring back."
A global Reuters poll of hundreds of economists pointed to a slight improvement in worldwide growth next year, with focus on whether China can pull out of a downtrend and whether the euro zone can contain its prolonged debt crisis.
With investors moving towards riskier assets, Canadian government bond prices fell. The two-year bond slipped 3 Canadian cents to yield 1.151 percent, while the benchmark 10-year bond edged 10 Canadian cents lower to yield 1.804 percent.
Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson; and Peter Galloway