RPT-CANADA FX DEBT-C$ firms slightly as U.S. jobless claims fall

* C$ at C$1.0263 vs US$, or 97.44 U.S. cents
    * C$ seen trading between C$1.0245 and C$1.0285
    * U.S. jobless claims fall for third straight week
    * C$ touches strongest level against euro in nearly 2 mths

    By Solarina Ho
    TORONTO, March 14 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar was
marginally stronger than its U.S. counterpart on Thursday, even
as better-than-expected U.S. jobless claims bolstered the
greenback against a range of currencies.
    The U.S. dollar, which has been boosted by a string of
positive surprises on the U.S. data front, hit a three-month
peak versus the euro as the positive data contrasted with
economic and political concerns in the euro zone. 
    The loonie, as it is colloquially known, mirrored the U.S.
dollar and touched its strongest level against the euro
 since January 23.
    "This move ... has been helped by a move lower in euro/CAD -
it took out last week's lows and extended it a little bit and
prompted some Canada strength on the cross," said Matt Perrier,
a director of foreign exchange sales at BMO Capital Markets.
    "But we've had very little in the way of economic data at
all this week in Canada to drive us and we've been stuck in a
very narrow range."
    At 9:13 a.m. (1313 GMT), Canadian dollar was
trading at C$1.0263 to the greenback, or 97.44 U.S. cents,
compared with C$1.0273, or 97.34 U.S. cents, at Wednesday's
North American close.
    The loonie, which was outperforming most major currency
counterparts, is expected to trade between C$1.0245 and C$1.0285
on Thursday, according to RBC Capital Markets.
    The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment 
benefits dropped for a third straight week last week, the latest
indication the U.S. labor market recovery was gaining traction.
    There is little on the Canadian data front for the remainder
of the week, although some analysts have said the currency could
see some movement if Friday's report on existing home sales is
particularly weak. 
    Canadian data out Thursday, including reports on new home
prices and capacity utilization, had little market impact.
    The price of Canadian government debt was lower across the
curve, with the two-year bond off 6.5 Canadian cents
to yield 1.009 percent, while the benchmark 10-year bond
 eased 40 Canadian cents to yield 1.963 percent. The
bonds were offering its highest yields in about two weeks.