Loonie weakens as investors dump Canadian stocks

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar weakened against its U.S. counterpart on Wednesday as global equity markets, including the commodity-linked Toronto Stock Exchange, tumbled after the World Health Organization deemed the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

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

At 3:33 p.m. (1933 GMT), the Canadian dollar was trading 0.3% lower at 1.3764 to the greenback, or 72.65 U.S. cents. The currency, which on Tuesday hit a four-year low at 1.3796, traded in a range of 1.3682 to 1.3779.

“Investors are just retreating from the stock market,” said Thomas Anderson, managing director at moneycorp North America. “They are afraid of growth because of the coronavirus, so they are moving money out of Canadian equities.”

Canada runs a current account deficit and exports many commodities, including oil, so a slowdown in the global flow of trade or capital could hurt.

Canada’s TSX Composite fell to a 14-month low, with heavily-weighted oil and gas companies hit particularly hard as major oil producers intensified their oil price war.

The TSX’s energy sector fell as much as 9.1% intraday, while U.S. crude oil futures settled 4% lower at $32.98 a barrel. On Monday, oil plunged as much as 33.8% after Saudi Arabia and Russia both said they would raise production.

“This is really disruptive to the people in the oil business ... and I think that is going to continue and the Canadian dollar takes it on the chin because of that,” Anderson said.

Canada is setting up a C$1 billion fund to help provinces combat a worsening coronavirus outbreak and is prepared to spend more money if necessary, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. The government also said it would deliver on March 30 its budget for the fiscal year that starts in April. [nT5N21K02G][nL1N2B41WF]

Last week, the Bank of Canada cut interest rates by 50 basis points to help cushion the economic impact of the virus. Money markets see it as likely that the central bank will ease by a further 50 basis points in April. [nL1N2AV16Q]

Canadian government bond yields declined across the yield curve, with the 10-year yield down 5.2 basis points at 0.613%. On Monday, the 10-year yield hit a record intraday low at 0.233%.

Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Diane Craft