03/15/2012 08:35 EDT | Updated 05/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Canadian dollar closes higher amid rising metals, positive U.S. data

TORONTO - The Canadian dollar closed higher Thursday amid rising prices for copper and gold bullion.

The commodity sensitive currency was up 0.09 of a cent to 100.79 cents US.

Metal prices advanced amid more confirmation that the U.S. economy continues its slow but steady revival.

The May copper contract ended the session up five cents at US$3.90 a pound.

The U.S. Labour Department said that fewer people sought unemployment benefits last week, adding to signs that the job market is strengthening.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 351,000. That matched a four-year low reached last month. The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, was unchanged at 355,750.

Also, the Empire State manufacturing index ran ahead to a 21-month high of 20.2 in March, from 19.5 in February.

The new orders and shipments indices both dropped back. However, there was a rise in the employment index and a marked improvement in the average workweek index.

Also, the manufacturing survey from the Philadelphia branch of the U.S. Federal Reserve rose to a higher than expected 12.5 in March, up from 10.2 in February.

Oil prices initially rose after the U.S. data was released, but by the end of the session the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was down 32 cents at US$105.11 a barrel.

Prices dipped amid reports that the U.S. and Britain had agreed to release oil from government-controlled emergency reserves. A White House official later said those reports were inaccurate.

Bullion prices also improved after sustaining sharp losses this week amid a solid U.S. retail sales report for February and a positive economic outlook by the U.S. Federal Reserve. The April contract for bullion on the Nymex climbed $16.60 to US$1,659.50 an ounce.