02/09/2015 08:36 EST | Updated 04/11/2015 05:59 EDT

Canadian dollar advances amid strong housing data, rising oil prices

TORONTO - The Canadian dollar closed higher Monday as oil prices advanced for a third straight day and data showed rising housing starts.

The loonie rose 0.37 of a cent to 80.22 cents US as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said that starts in January came in at 187,276 units, up from 179,637 units in December. The increase was led by multiple urban starts, which increased to 115,008 units in January from 102,384 in December, while single-detached urban starts decreased to 57,314 units from 59,556.

On commodity markets, March crude gained $1.17 to US$52.86 a barrel.

The Canadian dollar advanced 1.18 cents US last week as oil prices essentially stopped going straight down and entered a period of volatility as traders try to find a bottom.

Elsewhere, April gold gained $6.90 to US$1,241.50 an ounce.

March copper slipped a penny to US$2.58 a pound on the latest round of worry about Chinese economic growth. China's imports tumbled 19.7 per cent in January from a year earlier on top of a decline of 2.4 per cent a month earlier. Exports dropped 3.2 per cent year on year, compared with a 9.7 per cent rise in December.

However, analysts pointed out that China's trade figures early in the year are often volatile because companies rush to fill orders before shutting down for the Lunar New Year, which falls in January or February.

Chinese demand for commodities has cooled as economic growth has slowed.

Meanwhile, Greece's new leftist government appears set on a collision course with the country's creditors. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is demanding a "bridge agreement" that would give Greece and its creditors time to negotiate a new debt deal much more favourable to the country by June.

The current bailout deal between Greece and its creditors runs until the end of February, but Tsipras said the government is "not entitled to ask for an extension," saying the bailout deals that have kept the country afloat "have been abolished by popular mandate."