08/08/2013 08:50 EDT | Updated 10/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Loonie ahead almost a cent amid strong Chinese data, rising gold and copper

TORONTO - The Canadian dollar gained more than half a cent Thursday, pushed upwards by strong export and import data from China that eased some concerns over the slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.

The loonie climbed 0.92 of a cent to 96.86 cents US. Earlier in the day, it had a high of 1.12 cents to 97.06 cents US.

China reported that exports were up 5.1 per cent from a year earlier, while imports jumped 10.9 per cent

"It's not a massive move but it's not immaterial. (The loonie) came under a little bit of pressure recently because the street was really harping on how the U.S. dollar was about to bounce back from its recent weakness," said Gareth Watson, vice-president of investment management and research at Richardson GMP Ltd.

"You're probably seeing it helped by how gold is up today, even though oil prices are bit lower. But on the whole, there is just a bit of an acceptance in the marketplace that parity isn't really the norm for the rest of the year and where we're trading, between 94 and 98 cents range, is where the loonie will remain going into 2014."

The positive data also helped push December gold bullion ahead $24.60 to US$1,309.90 an ounce, while copper climbed nine cents to $3.27. The September crude oil contract moved down 97 cents to US$103.40 a barrel.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., unemployment aid applications were up 5,000 to 333,000 in July, a sign that signals steady job gains.

For the past few months, concerns have been raised about when the U.S. Federal Reserve will begin pulling back on its monetary stimulus by tapering off its current $85-billion bond-buying program.

Signs that this will happen sooner rather than later have prompted markets to get nervous any time the Fed gives away clues on the timing of this pullback.

Comments from Fed Reserve officials have been in focus this week after two regional presidents said the central bank could make its moves to slow stimulus in the shorter term, though the exact timing was left to interpretation.

The Fed won't make an official statement until next month, which has put extra weight on more off-the-cuff remarks.

The bank has previously said that it won't make any moves until there are clear signs that the U.S. economy is faring better.