01/19/2012 08:41 EST | Updated 03/20/2012 05:12 EDT

Canadian dollar lower amid strong economic data, lower oil prices

TORONTO - The Canadian dollar closed little changed Thursday amid a better than expected reading on the manufacturing sector and lower oil prices.

The currency dipped 0.02 of a cent to 98.87 cents US, well off session highs of 99.29 cents US.

Statistics Canada said manufacturing sales rose two per cent in November to $49.6 billion, the fourth increase in five months. Economists had expected a rise of 1.2 per cent. The agency said the gains reflected higher sales in the machinery, petroleum and coal product and motor vehicle industries.

Oil prices drifted slightly lower on a mixed reading on American energy inventories.

The February crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange dipped 20 cents to US$100.39 a barrel after the U.S. Energy Department said Thursday that U.S. crude oil supplies declined about one per cent last week. But gasoline supplies rose 1.7 per cent and demand over the past four weeks is down 6.1 per cent from a year ago.

Copper prices continued to move higher with March copper up five cents to US$3.80 a pound. The metal, viewed as an economic barometer since it is used in so many businesses, is up more than 10 cents this week following stronger than expected fourth quarter growth in China. China is the world's biggest copper consumer.

February bullion in New York was down $5.80 to US$1,654.10 an ounce.

Meanwhile, investors awaited developments in Greece's debt-reduction talks with private creditors.

Greece needs to clinch the agreement quickly to qualify for more bailout loans before it faces a major bond repayment on March 20. Without the money, the country would find it difficult to service its debts and be forced to default, potentially triggering more turmoil in global markets.