Canadian dollar higher vs U.S. dollar, other commodity currencies even as oil falls

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar firmed against a broadly weaker U.S. counterpart on Tuesday even as oil prices tumbled, although it lost ground against safe-haven currencies including the Japanese yen and the Swiss franc amid turmoil in equities worldwide.

A Canadian dollar coin, commonly called a "Loonie" and an American dollar bill are seen in this staged photo in Toronto, March 17, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

The Canadian currency did better than a string of other commodity-linked currencies as oil teetered close to a 12-1/2-year low hit last month and financial turbulence fed doubts about the Federal Reserve’s forecast of four U.S. interest rate hikes this year.

“The Canadian dollar is standing there in splendid isolation relative to that group” of commodity currencies that include the Russian rouble, Mexican peso and Norwegian crown, said Shaun Osborne, chief currency strategist at Scotiabank.

“It may well be that people were just getting too negative on Canada,” he said.

The Canadian dollar CAD=D4 settled at C$1.3879 to the greenback, or 72.05 U.S. cents, stronger than the Bank of Canada's official Monday close of C$1.3934, or 71.77 U.S. cents.

U.S. crude CLc1 prices settled down 5.9 percent at $27.94 a barrel while Brent LCOc1 lost 6.6 percent to $30.72 on gloomy U.S. and global demand outlooks.

Osborne said decent Canadian economic data since early January, including on wholesale trade, retail sales and manufacturing, have helped reverse loonie weakness that saw the currency approach C$1.47 versus the greenback in mid-January.

Losses in Asian stock markets sent investors scurrying for safe havens, while a drop in bank shares kept European shares under pressure. Yields on longer-term Japanese bonds fell below zero for the first time.

The U.S. dollar fell to its lowest in more than three months against a basket of major currencies .DXY, weighed by losses for equity markets and oil and doubts about the Fed's rate-hike trajectory. Fed Chair Janet Yellen is due to give testimony on Wednesday.

Canadian government bond prices were mixed across the maturity curve, with the two-year CA2YT=RR price up 2 Canadian cents to yield 0.354 percent and the benchmark 10-year CA10YT=RR flat to yield 1.051 percent after hitting a record low at 1.008 percent. Longer-dated bond prices rose.

Scotia’s Osborne said the next likely catalyst for the currency would be the federal budget, given the potential for significant stimulus spending to boost economic growth and lower the risk of the Bank of Canada cutting rates.

Canada’s new Liberal government is set to unveil its first budget in the week of March 21, two sources with knowledge of the process said on Tuesday.

Additional reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by W Simon and James Dalgleish