Canadian dollar gains as currency avoids Trump's ire

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar made gains against its U.S. counterpart on Thursday as investors cheered the loonie’s absence from a list of currencies attracting the ire of U.S. President Donald Trump.

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

The U.S. dollar .DXY hit its lowest level since mid-November against a basket of currencies before recovering, after the U.S. Federal Reserve disappointed investors hoping for a clear sign of a March interest rate rise and signs the new U.S. administration favors a weaker greenback weighed.

Trump and his top trade adviser this week criticized Germany, Japan and China, saying the three key U.S. trading partners were engaged in devaluing their currencies to the harm of U.S. companies and consumers.

“The odd one out is the Canadian dollar,” said Adam Button, currency analyst at ForexLive in Montreal. “Every day that goes by where Trump doesn’t criticize Canadian trade policy is a win for the Canadian dollar.”

Canadian officials are convinced Mexico will suffer the most damage from any changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump wants to rework and under which Canada sends 75 percent of its exports to the United States.

Gains for the loonie also came after domestic data this week showed that the economy expanded faster than expected in November, and that the manufacturing sector grew at its fastest pace in over two years in January.

The Canadian dollar CAD=D4 settled at C$1.3020 to the greenback, or 76.80 U.S. cents, stronger than Wednesday's close of C$1.3047, or 76.65 U.S. cents.

The currency traded in a range of C$1.2981 to C$1.3050.

Canadian car and light truck sales rose 2.2 percent in January over last year to an all-time record for the month, DesRosiers Automotive Consultants said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz made clear that the central bank sees no need to follow the Fed with interest rate hikes, and he reiterated that the firmer Canadian dollar was a headwind for the export sector.

The loonie rose 3.2 percent in January after climbing 3.1 percent in 2016. On Tuesday, it touched its strongest level since Sept. 9 at C$1.2969.

Canadian government bond prices were steady to slightly higher across a flatter yield curve, with the two-year CA2YT=RR unchanged to yield 0.774 percent, and the 10-year CA10YT=RR up 3 Canadian cents to yield 1.764 percent, after touching its lowest intraday since Jan. 24 at 1.712 percent.

Additional reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by W Simon and Diane Craft