Canadian dollar posts nine-month high as investors focus on rate divergence

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar strengthened against its U.S. counterpart on Friday, adding to this week’s gains, driven by a less dovish interest rate outlook from the Bank of Canada compared with the Federal Reserve.

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

Canada’s central bank on Wednesday left its benchmark interest rate steady at 1.75% and made clear it had no intention of easing monetary policy. That stance has contrasted with dovish guidance this week from the Fed.

Investors are betting that the Fed will cut interest rates at the end of this month and ease further by October. FEDWATCHBOCWATCH

The loonie was lifted by “divergence” in monetary policy between the Bank of Canada and the Fed, said Bipan Rai, North American head of FX strategy at CIBC Capital Markets.

At 4:01 p.m. (2001 GMT), the Canadian dollar CAD=D4 was trading 0.3% higher at 1.3031 to the greenback, or 76.74 U.S. cents. The currency touched its strongest intraday level since Oct. 25 at 1.3018.

For the week, the loonie was up 0.4%. It has climbed 4.7% since the start of the 2019, the best performance among G10 currencies.

Gains for the loonie this week came as data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Reuters calculations showed that speculators have raised bullish bets on the currency. As of July 9, net long positions in the loonie rose to 9,226 contracts from 6,293 contracts in the prior week.

“In the longer term, we think that any strength in the Canadian dollar will provide better opportunities to fade, but that’s something that we’re going to need to be patient on,” Rai said.

The price of oil, one of Canada’s major exports, was little changed as U.S. oil producers in the Gulf of Mexico cut more than half their output because of a tropical storm and as tensions continued to simmer in the Middle East.

U.S. crude oil futures CLc1 settled 1 cent higher at $60.21 a barrel.

Canadian government bond prices were higher across the yield curve, with the 2-year up 4.5 Canadian cents to yield 1.579% and the 10-year CA10YT=RR rising 21 Canadian cents to yield 1.607%.

Earlier in the day, the 10-year yield touched its highest since May 24 at 1.649%.

Reporting by Levent Uslu; additional reporting by Fergal Smith; editing by Jonathan Oatis