C$ posts biggest gain in 10 months as Bank of Canada cuts stimulus

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar surged by the most since June 2020 against its U.S. counterpart on Wednesday and the Toronto stock market rebounded as investors welcomed a move by the Bank of Canada to dial back emergency support for the economy.

The loonie strengthened 0.9% to 1.2495 per U.S. dollar, or 80.03 U.S. cents. Canada's main stock index ended 0.5% higher at 19,143.25, clawing back some of its decline over the previous two days.

"I think we are seeing positive sentiment toward the Canadian economy coming off the comments from the Bank of Canada today," said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at SIA Wealth Management.

The Bank of Canada signaled that it could start hiking interest rates in late 2022, as it sharply boosted its outlook for the Canadian economy and cut the pace of bond purchases to C$3 billion per week from C$4 billion.

The central bank began a large-scale bond buying program last year to support the economy during the coronavirus crisis.

The reduction in stimulus puts Canada's central bank at odds with some other major central banks, such as the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, that have said they will maintain or even increase the pace of bond buying.

"It makes sense that Canada might be one of the ones to start scaling back first ... our economic numbers have been quite positive," Cieszynski said.

Canada's annual inflation rate doubled to 2.2% in March, Statistics Canada said, while the average of the Bank of Canada's three core measures was 1.9%, up from 1.8%.

The Canadian dollar, which touched its strongest intraday level since March 18 at 1.2455, was able to rally despite pressure on the price of oil, one of Canada's major exports.

U.S. crude oil futures settled 2.1% lower at $61.35 a barrel amid concerns that surging COVID-19 cases in India will drive down fuel demand in the world's third-biggest oil importer.

Still, the Toronto Stock Exchange's energy sector advanced 0.9%, while the materials group was up 1.1%, bolstered by higher gold prices. Last Friday, the TSX notched a record high at 19,380.68.

Canadian government bond yields were higher across the curve. The 2-year rose 2.2 basis points to 0.317%, near the top if its range since the start of the year.

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and David Gregorio)

04/21/2021 20:48

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