Canadian dollar slips amid higher commodities, slowing foreign investment

TORONTO – The Canadian dollar was slightly lower Thursday amid rising prices for oil and metals and data indicating a slower pace of foreign investment.

The loonie dipped 0.05 of a cent to 101.36 cents US.

Oil prices headed higher, building on Wednesday’s gain of almost $1 after the U.S. Energy Information Administration said crude supplies declined by one million barrels last week. Analysts polled by Platts expected a 2.5-million-barrel climb.

Prices were also supported by an attack on a natural gas plant deep in the Sahara desert in Algeria. Islamist militants are holding dozens of hostages.

The February crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 55 cents to US$94.79 a barrel.

March copper in New York rose two cents to US$3.63 a pound while February bullion declined $6.90 to US$1,676.30 an ounce.

On the economic front, Statistics Canada reported that foreign investment in Canadian securities came in at $5.6 billion in November, which was the lowest amount since July. Foreign investment in the Canadian money market was $3.8 billion, led by federal Treasury bills.

The data was important as “foreign investment flows into Canada have been an important support for the Canadian dollar over the last year and are expected to continue,” said Scotia Capital chief currency strategist Camilla Sutton.

In the U.S., the Commerce Department said housing starts came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 954,000 during December. It was the fastest pace since the summer of 2008. Last year finished as the best year for residential construction since the start of the housing crisis.

And the Labour Department reported that the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell to a five-year low last week.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications fell 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 335,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 359,250.