Canadian dollar climbs to nine-day high as greenback falters

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

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar strengthened to a nine-day high against its U.S. counterpart on Thursday as data showing a surge in American unemployment benefit claims weighed on the greenback, with the loonie adding to the prior day’s largest rally in four years.

At 9:16 a.m. (1316 GMT), the Canadian dollar CAD=D4 was trading 0.7% higher at 1.4092 to the greenback, or 70.96 U.S. cents. The currency touched its strongest intraday level since March 17 at 1.4078.

On Wednesday, the loonie surged 1.9%, its biggest gain since March 2016.

The rally for the loonie on Wednesday came as Canada doubled the value of an aid package to C$52 billion ($36.9 million) to help people and businesses deal with losses from the coronavirus outbreak

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, also said it would provide coronavirus aid. Its package is worth C$17 billion including tax deferrals.

The U.S. dollar .DXY fell against a basket of major currencies for a fourth straight day, while U.S. crude oil futures CLc1 were down 2.6% at $23.85 a barrel. Oil is one of Canada's biggest exports.

Canadian oil and gas companies are urging Ottawa to free up credit and cash to help them survive the twin shocks of COVID-19 spread and a crude price war, pitching ideas ranging from tax deferrals to backstopping bank loans.

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits shot to record of more than 3 million last week as strict measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic ground the country to a sudden halt.

Canadian government bond yields fell across a flatter curve in sympathy with U.S. Treasuries. The 10-year CA10YT=RR was down 8.3 basis points at 0.819%.

Reporting by Fergal Smith; editing by Jonathan Oatis