CANADA FX DEBT-C$ firms to 1-week high; implied vol hits lowest in 4 months

* Canadian dollar ended at C$1.2970, or 77.10 U.S. cents
    * Loonie touched its strongest since May 18 at C$1.2912
    * Bond prices higher across the maturity curve

    By Fergal Smith
    TORONTO, May 26 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar strengthened
to a one-week high against its U.S. counterpart on Thursday as
oil moved briefly above $50 a barrel, while the market's
expectation of future volatility for the currency fell to its
lowest in four months.
    U.S. crude oil futures traded above $50 for the first
time since October before settling at $49.48 a barrel, down 8
    The move in oil triggered "huge desire" to cover short
positions in the Canadian dollar, while some long positions in
the currency were established, said Brad Schruder, director of
corporate sales and structuring at BMO Capital Markets.
    The loonie's gains come one day after the Bank of Canada was
less dovish than some investors had expected as it signaled the
impact on the economy of the Alberta wildfires will be
    Canadian dollar implied volatility, which traders use to
price options on the currency, has tumbled since the interest
rate decision. For 3-month options, implied volatility was at
9.3 percent on Thursday, its lowest since January. 
    There was a premium built into the market by those who
thought the central bank might hint at the possibility of rate
cuts due to the wildfires, said Patric Booth, head of trading at
Velocity Trade, who sees value in buying options after
volatility sold-off.
    Overnight index swaps implied just a 5 percent chance of a
rate cut this year, having implied a 40 percent probability just
two weeks ago when the wildfire cut oil production. 
    The Canadian dollar ended at C$1.2970 to the
greenback, or 77.10 U.S. cents, stronger than Wednesday's close
of C$1.3022, or 76.79 U.S.    
    The currency's weakest level was C$1.3036, while it touched
its strongest since May 18 at C$1.2912.
    Domestic data for March was mixed, as average weekly
earnings of non-farm payroll employees rose 0.5 percent from the
previous month, while borrowing activity by Canadian small
businesses fell for the fourth month in a row. 
    Canadian government bond prices were higher across the
maturity curve in sympathy with U.S. Treasuries. The two-year
 price rose 4.5 Canadian cents to yield 0.617 percent
and the benchmark 10-year climbed 51 Canadian cents
to yield 1.331 percent.
    The Canada-U.S. two-year bond spread was 2.1 basis points
less negative at -25.8 basis points as Canadian government bonds
underperformed at the front and in the belly of the curve.

 (Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Chris Reese)