BUSINESS

Canadian dollar little changed ahead of Bank of Canada rate announcement

01/16/2015 08:42 EST | Updated 03/18/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - The Canadian dollar was little changed late morning Monday amid falling commodity prices while traders awaited the latest word on interest rates Wednesday from the Bank of Canada.

The loonie added 0.01 of a cent to 83.57 cents US.

U.S. financial markets were closed for the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.

The Canadian central bank is universally expected to leave its key rate at one per cent, where it has been since September 2010.

markets have believed that the Bank of Canada could move to hike later in the year, after the U.S. Federal Reserve starts hiking its own rates away from near zero. However, there are questions about how the slide in crude oil prices has hit the Canadian economy and how this could affect central bank thinking about when rates should start to rise.

"The bank (is) poised to deliver its rate decision and revised forecasts with tectonic shifts in some of its underlying assumptions — notably a 4.5 per cent decline in the value of the Canadian dollar and a 40 per cent drop in oil prices since forecasts were last prepared in October," observed Mark Chandler, Head of Canadian FIC Strategy at RBC Dominion Securities.

"The BoC is on record as saying the net impact will be 'bad for Canada.' "

Oil has plunged 55 per cent from the highs of June 2014 and are down 40 per cent just since the end of November after Saudi Arabia-led OPEC refused to cut production levels to support prices.

Oil prices fell Monday in electronic trading in New York after JPMorgan Chase became the latest financial institution to slash its oil price forecast for 2015. The bank said Monday that Brent crude — a global benchmark for oil — will average out at US$49 a barrel from $82 a barrel in its last forecast.

The February crude contract in New York fell $1.02 to US$47.67 a barrel.

Meanwhile, copper prices fell a day before the release of figures expected to show the economy slowed to a 7.2 per cent year over year pace from 7.3 per cent in the prior quarter. March copper in New York was down four cents in electronic trading to US$2.58 a pound.

Elsewhere on commodity markets, February gold faded $1.50 to US$1,275.40 an ounce.

Meanwhile, traders are also looking to the European Central Bank to unveil on Thursday a major program of quantitative easing, involving the massive purchase of government bonds, to support a weak economic recovery in the eurozone. It is also hoped that such a program will increase inflation pressures. The region's price pressures have been extremely low and that has raised worries that the region could fall prey to deflationary pressures, a situation where businesses and consumers hold off on purchases in the hope that items will just get cheaper.