Canadian dollar pares some losses after hitting a two-week low

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar hit a two-week low against its U.S. counterpart on Wednesday, pressured by lower oil prices and a drop in domestic retail sales, but pared some losses after Federal Reserve minutes fell short of a hawkish tone.

A Canadian dollar coin, commonly known as the "Loonie", is pictured in this illustration picture taken in Toronto January 23, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Canadian retail sales unexpectedly declined 0.5 percent in December, the biggest drop in nine months, as consumers bought fewer new cars and spent less during the holiday shopping season.

“It’s generally soft data,” said Andrew Kelvin, senior rates strategist at TD Securities.

It reinforces the view that the Bank of Canada will not be following the Federal Reserve with interest rate hikes, he added.

The chances of a Bank of Canada interest rate hike this year dipped to 28 percent from more than 30 percent before the retail sales report, data from the overnight index swaps market showed. BOCWATCH

U.S. crude CLc1 prices settled 74 cents lower at $53.59 a barrel on expectations of another surge in U.S. inventories.

Oil is one of Canada’s major exports.

The greenback .DXY turned lower against a basket of major currencies as investors weighed minutes of the latest Fed monetary policy meeting.

“The Fed didn’t make it sound too urgent that they wanted to raise rates in March,” said Ronald Simpson, managing director, global currency analysis at Action Economics.

The Canadian dollar CAD=D4 ended at C$1.3144 to the greenback, or 76.08 U.S. cents, slightly weaker than Tuesday's close of C$1.3138, or 76.12 U.S. cents.

The currency’s strongest level of the session was C$1.3109, while it touched its weakest since Feb. 7 at C$1.3210.

The United States is likely to refrain from suggesting major changes to its trading arrangement with Canada, according to a majority of economists polled by Reuters.

Still, the loonie would be among the biggest losers if the Trump administration implements a border adjustment tax as part of its effort to crack down on what it sees as unfair competition from trading partners, analysts say.

Canadian government bond prices were slightly higher across much of the yield curve in sympathy with U.S. Treasuries after the Fed struck a cautious tone on raising rates.

The two-year CA2YT=RR edged up 1.5 Canadian cents to yield 0.781 percent and the 10-year CA10YT=RR rose 5 Canadian cents to yield 1.717 percent.

Canada's inflation report for January is due on Friday, with economists expecting the annual rate to edge up to 1.6 percent. ECONCA

Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Peter Cooney