BUSINESS

Canadian dollar closes lower amid weaker oil prices, eurozone worries

06/13/2012 08:50 EDT | Updated 08/13/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - The Canadian dollar closed lower against the U.S. greenback Wednesday amid weaker crude prices while traders kept a wary eye on the eurozone debt crisis.

They also took in the latest reading on U.S. retail sales. Data for May showed sales dropped by 0.2 per cent, although most of the weakness was focused on a drop in gasoline prices.

The commodity-sensitive loonie closed down 0.24 of a cent to 97.16 cents US.

The July crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed down 70 cents at US$82.62 a barrel on demand concerns. Data released Wednesday morning showed a drop in inventories of about 200,000 barrels last week, far below the two million that analysts had expected.

Bullion prices climbed $5.60 to US$1,619.40 an ounce while July copper was unchanged at US$3.34 a pound.

Traders were cautious amid concerns about the effectiveness of a Spanish bank rescue announced over the weekend and a downgrade of the country's banks by ratings agency Fitch.

About €100 billion is being made available to Spain to aid banks mired in massive amounts of bad loans stemming from a collapsed real estate sector. But traders worry that the money will just add to the Spanish government’s already considerable debts and perhaps force it to seek its own sovereign bailout.

The lack of confidence has been expressed in bond markets where Spain has been forced to pay higher yields to attract buyers for its debt. The yield on Spain's benchmark 10-year bond dropped slightly Wednesday from euro-era highs to 6.72 per cent.

But the contagion has spread to other heavily-indebted countries. Italy paid 3.972 per cent interest rates — up from 2.34 per cent last month — to sell €6.5 billion in 12-month paper. The bond auction enjoyed strong demand. The sale was a warm-up for Thursday’s weightier longer-term paper auction.

The debt crisis is not just rattling financial markets, but also affecting households and businesses by creating uncertainty over the future of the economy.

The latest report from Eurostat, the EU statistics agency, showed industrial production in April among the 17 countries that use the euro slipped 0.8 per cent. Analysts noted that even that poor showing is worse than it seems because a cold Spring pushed up energy demand.

Investors are also nervously awaiting Greek elections on Sunday, when a party that is threatening to renege on the country’s bailout terms could come away the big winner. That might force the country out of the euro.