Canadian dollar rallies as rising inflation boosts rate hike chances

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar strengthened to an 11-day high against the greenback on Friday as oil prices rose and hotter-than-expected domestic inflation data raised the chances of a further Bank of Canada interest rate hike over the coming months.

U.S. and Canada Dollar notes are seen in this June 22, 2017 illustration photo. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

The annual inflation rate rose to 2.2 percent, a three-year high, from 1.7 percent in January, Statistics Canada said. Economists had forecast a rate of 2.0 percent.

The Bank of Canada’s three measures of core inflation also all strengthened.

“I think it will reinforce the view that the bank will keep slowly grinding rates higher,” said Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.

The central bank has hiked rates three times since July even as it worried about a more uncertain outlook for trade. Chances of a hike in May rose to 82 percent from 74 percent before the data, the overnight index swaps market indicated. BOCWATCH

Still, separate data showing a weaker-than-expected 0.3 percent rise in January retail sales added to the picture of a domestic economy that has lost some momentum in recent months.

The price of oil, one of Canada’s major exports, rose after the Saudi energy minister said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would need to keep coordinating supply cuts with non-member countries including Russia into 2019.

U.S. crude CLc1 prices were up 1.1 percent at $65.02 a barrel.

At 9:49 a.m. EST (1349 GMT), the Canadian dollar CAD=D4 was trading 0.7 percent higher at C$1.2846 to the greenback, or 77.85 U.S. cents.

The currency touched its strongest since March 12 at C$1.2825.

The U.S. dollar .DXY fell against a basket of major currencies as investors weighed escalating global trade tensions.

Canada’s commodity-linked economy could be hurt if global trade slowed. But the loonie has benefited this week from optimism about a deal to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Canadian government bond prices were lower across the yield curve, with the two-year CA2YT=RR price down 8 Canadian cents to yield 1.868 percent and the 10-year CA10YT=RR falling 18 Canadian cents to yield 2.202 percent.

The gap between Canada’s 2-year yield and its U.S. equivalent narrowed by 5.3 basis points to -41.1 basis points.

Additional reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Nick Zieminski