Loonie roars back, closes above 70 cents US


TORONTO – Strengthening oil prices sent North American stock markets higher and helped push the Canadian dollar above the 70-cent U.S. mark Thursday.

The commodity-sensitive loonie added 1.02 cents to settle at 70.03 cents US as the March contract for benchmark crude oil rose $1.18, or roughly four per cent, to US$29.53 a barrel.

Thursday marks the first time in more than a week that the Canadian dollar has closed above 70 cents U.S.

Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, says the loonie received a “double boost” from the rebound in crude prices and the Bank of Canada’s decision Wednesday to hold its benchmark interest rate steady.

“The loonie had gotten really oversold on the double whammy of the falling oil price and the speculation that Bank of Canada would cut rates,” Cieszynski said.

“Today is a spectacular day for the loonie. It has really, really roared right back.”

The increase in oil prices came despite a report showing a big jump in U.S. oil inventories last week, up four million barrels versus the 2.2 million barrels that had been expected.

“I think we’ve just reached a point where the selling that’s been so prevalent for the last couple of weeks is exhausted, and now we’re seeing markets starting to bounce back the other way,” Cieszynski said.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index gained 192.75 points to 12,035.86, led by energy stocks, which rose 5.22 per cent.

Meanwhile, the global gold and materials subsectors of the TSX declined, losing 0.91 per cent and 0.77 per cent, respectively, as the February gold contract retreated $8.00 to US$1,098.20 an ounce.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 115.94 points to 15,882.68, while the broader S&P 500 added 9.66 points to 1,868.99 and the Nasdaq inched 0.37 of a point higher to 4,472.06.

Elsewhere in commodities, the February contract for natural gas climbed two cents to US$2.14 per mmBtu, while March copper rose four cents to US$2.00 a pound.

Besides the boost from oil prices, markets were also encouraged by remarks from the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, who said the bank would consider using more stimulus measures for the European economy at its next meeting in March.

“It certainly gave the indices in Europe a big lift,” Cieszynski said. “And at the same time it knocked the euro down a little bit as well. I think the street saw that as a positive, that there’s a potential for more stimulus.”