03/12/2015 08:55 EDT | Updated 05/12/2015 05:59 EDT

Canadian dollar rises half a cent as greenback eases off recent gains

TORONTO - The Canadian dollar made small gains on Thursday as the U.S. greenback eased off its relentless climb against other key international currencies.

The loonie moved up 0.36 of a cent to 78.87 cents US, after taking a drubbing against the U.S. dollar in recent weeks.

The U.S. economy has been on an upswing, but a lacklustre retail sales report knocked some of the wind out of trader confidence on Thursday.

The disappointing retail sales report raised concerns about the strength of the U.S. economy and increased speculation about when the U.S. Federal Reserve will start raising its benchmark interest rate.

The Canadian dollar was also affected by weak demand and prices for key commodities, particularly oil, that are important for its export trade.

The Royal Bank downgraded Thursday its latest forecast for the Canadian economy in 2015 after a sharp drop in energy prices. The bank projects Canada's real GDP to grow by 2.4 per cent this year — a reduction of 0.3 percentage points from its forecast issued last December. RBC said while the drop in energy prices is a negative for the oil and gas sector, much of the weakening will be offset by stronger consumer spending and exports.

On the commodity markets, the April crude contract ended near a six-week low, falling $1.12 to US$47.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange

April gold bullion closed ahead $1.30 at US$1,151.90 an ounce, while March copper was up 5.3 cents at US$2.66 a pound.