* C$ climbs to high of $1.0020, strongest since May * Payrolls data tops expectations; unemployment ticks up * Currency trades near recent record high against euro * Bond prices lower across curve By Jennifer Kwan TORONTO, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Canada's dollar traded at a stronger level than the U.S. currency on Friday for the first time in more than 2 months as investors welcomed a U.S. jobs report that offered signs that the economy there is improving. The currency climbed to a high of C$0.9980 to the greenback, or $1.0020, its strongest level since May 11, after the U.S. data. Nonfarm payrolls rose 163,000 last month, beating economists' expectations for a 100,000 gain. The report was dimmed somewhat, however, by the increase in the jobless rate to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent in June, even as more people gave up the search for work. Still, the stronger-than-expected jobs growth suggested the economy of Canada's largest trading partner continues to expand. "The argument behind the move today is much more fundamental in that if the U.S. economy is picking up jobs at a decent pace then ultimately it's going to reflect itself in a stronger economy, which is being priced into equity valuations," said Jack Spitz, managing director of foreign exchange at National Financial Bank, noting the rally in global stock markets. At 12:30 p.m. (1630 GMT), the Canadian dollar was at C$0.9983 against the greenback, or $1.0017, higher than Thursday's North American finish at C$1.0072, or 99.29 U.S. cents. At the same time, some think the higher jobless rate could also still pressure the U.S. Federal Reserve to try to boost the economy with a third round of bond purchases. "That's got investors thinking we'll see the Fed stepping in later in the year to provide stimulus, so that's increasing risk appetite and weakening the U.S. dollar across the board," said Darren Richardson, a senior corporate dealer at CanadianForex. The Fed this week stopped short of offering new monetary stimulus even as it signaled further bond buys could be in store. IN THE MOOD TO BUY The Canadian dollar traded at C$1.2367, near record high levels of C$1.2189 against the euro, or 82.04 euro cents, which it hit on Thursday. "Even though the ECB didn't really change their stance yesterday, the market is still clinging to the hope of the ECB taking action, combined with the Fed later in the year," said Richardson. "As always, if we do see unexpected negative data coming form the peripheral economies we'll see the U.S. dollar rebound immediately as risk comes off. "It really is a day-to-day testing of risk sentiment." Investor appetite for risk helped push up U.S. stocks by 2 percent, while U.S. oil prices surged more than 4 percent on Friday after the jobs report. The U.S. dollar and euro rose, while the safe-haven yen dropped more than 1 percent against the euro, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand dollars. Canada's two-year bond retreated 12 Canadian cents to yield 1.124 percent, and the benchmark 10-year bond dropped 97 Canadian cents to yield 1.776 percent.