C$ firms after Fed announcement, hits 7-month high
* C$ at C$0.9836 to the US$, or $1.0164 * Hits highest since Sept. 19 at C$0.9823 * Market looks to Bernanke, Carney statements * Bond prices mostly lower By Jon Cook TORONTO, April 25 (Reuters) - Canada's dollar rose to a seven-month high against its U.S. counterpart on Wednesday as euro zone debt concerns eased and the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would keep interest rates on hold until at least late 2014, a week after the Bank of Canada signaled it may withdraw stimulus measures. The Fed on Wednesday repeated its promise to leave interest rates on hold near zero and described the U.S. economy as expanding moderately. It said economic conditions "are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014." Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will speak at a news conference this afternoon. The Fed decision contrasted sharply with last week's Bank of Canada announcement that surprised the market with its hawkish tone and its suggestion that it may need to start raising interest rates. "Right now, Canada is looking like one of the rare countries where there's possible hikes in place," said Sebastien Lavoie, an economist at Laurentian Bank of Canada BLC Securities. "Whereas in other countries there will probably be no modification at all in the stance of monetary policy." Higher interest rates or expectations of higher rates tend to help currencies strengthen by attracting international capital flows. The Canadian dollar would likely strengthen further against the greenback should Canada raise rates ahead of the Fed. At 1:43 p.m. (1543 GMT), the Canadian dollar was at C$0.9836 against the U.S. dollar, or $1.0164, up from Tuesday's finish at C$0.9880 against the U.S. dollar, or $1.0121. It touched C$0.9823, its highest against the greenback since Sept. 19. On Wednesday, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney will address the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, a day after he told the House of Commons finance committee that the central bank might have to increase interest rates because of the stronger performance of the economy and firmer underlying inflation. A recent Reuters survey of the country's primary dealers showed the median forecast for the timing of the next rate increase being pushed up to the first quarter of 2013. "The idea that Carney will not wait for Bernanke to eventually withdraw some of the stimulus is certainly a positive development for an appreciation of our currency," said Lavoie. Canada's dollar also benefited from a rally in equity markets, which advanced after forecast-beating results from Apple Inc boosted optimism in a corporate earnings season already outstripping expectations by a wide margin. "The No. 1 thing was Apple. That certainly spurred the market into a risk-on mode, helping Canada," said Steve Butler, managing director of foreign exchange trading at Scotiabank. Also contributing to the market mood for riskier assets was weaker demand at a German auction of new 30-year bonds. The ultra low yielding but safe paper seemed to be much less attractive to investors. Canadian government bond prices were mostly lower with the two-year bond down 5 Canadian cents to yield 1.449 percent. The benchmark 10-year bond sank 40 Canadian cents to yield 2.119 percent.