CANADA FX DEBT-House starts help C$ overcome weak China data

* C$ at C$1.0190 vs US$, or 98.14 U.S. cents

* Canada house starts beat expectations

* Weak China data hurts Aussie, kiwi, but not C$

TORONTO, June 10 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar eked out a slight gain versus its U.S. counterpart on Monday after robust domestic housing data helped it brush of the signs of a slowdown in China that were pressuring its commodity-linked cousin, the Australian dollar,

The Canadian currency recorded its fifth straight gain on the Aussie, and hit its strongest level against it since September 2010.

“The Australian dollar and the kiwi dollar react a little bit more immediately to the Chinese data than does Canada, because we’ve got the U.S. as our trading partner,” said Matt Perrier, managing director of foreign exchange sales at BMO Capital Markets.

A slew of figures over the weekend showed that China’s economy is losing momentum, with exports and domestic activity struggling in May.

Canadian data on Monday showed more than 200,000 house starts at an annual rate in May, beating both April’s figure and a Reuters poll of expectations by more than 20,000.

“The housing starts today was a pleasant surprise, 200 was a nice beat on top of what the market consensus had been,” said Don Mikolich, an executive director of foreign exchange sales at

CIBC World Markets.

The Canadian dollar ended the day at C$1.0190 to the greenback, or 98.14 U.S. cents, compared with C$1.0198, or 98.06 U.S. cents, at Friday’s North American close.

The loonie, as Canada’s currency is colloquially known, hit its strongest level against the greenback since mid-May on Friday after data showed the Canadian economy added a robust 95,000 jobs last month.

Monday’s housing data lent weight to the thesis of a recovering Canadian economy, but Mikolich warned that more proof would be required if gains were to continue.

“We may be punching a little bit above our weight right now on the back of that economic news, but we’ll need some positive follow-through to build the case that Canada is still recovering nicely,” he said.

Monday’s rise came despite a slip in the price of oil, a major Canadian export.

Prices for Canadian government debt were lower across the maturity curve, with the two-year bond off 6 Canadian cents to yield 1.161 percent, and the benchmark 10-year bond down 4 Canadian cents to yield 2.199 percent.

That is the highest yield on the 10-year since March 2012.

“If yields continue to move in that direction, the dollar will react accordingly,” said BMO’s Perrier.