TORONTO -- The Canadian dollar was trading below 69 cents US early Friday for the first time since 2003 as crude oil futures dropped below US$30 a barrel and overseas stock markets fell sharply.
The loonie traded as low as 68.74 cents US about five hours before the Toronto Stock Exchange open at 9:30 a.m.. The dollar was higher at 7:30 a.m., at 68.88 cents US -- about three-quarters of a U.S. cent below the Thursday closing price.
Canada's dollar -- which hasn't been below 69 cents since April 2003 -- was also down Friday against the euro, British pound and Japanese yen.
The loonie fell for 10 straight days to Thursday, marking the longest losing streak for the currency since 1971, Bloomberg reports. Prior to 1971, the Canadian dollar was pegged to the U.S. dollar.
The Canadian dollar over the past month. (Chart: xe.com)
On the commodity markets, February crude oil futures briefly traded at US$29.53 a barrel at about 7:30 a.m. The falling price of crude -- from more than US$100 a barrel in the summer of 2014 -- has been a major reason for the loonie's fall.
With about two hours to go before regular trading on North American stock exchanges at 9:30 a.m., index futures had turned from solidly positive to negative: Dow Jones futures were down 247.0 points at 16,034.0, S&P 500 futures declined 29.25 points to 1,921.84 and the Nasdaq futures lost 72.75 points to 4,184.75.
Asian and European markets were also in the red. Shanghai's benchmark index closed down 3.55 per cent and smaller declines were shown in Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, and Paris.
On Thursday, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX index gained 165.62 points to close at 12,336.03, though it has still lost more than 900 points, or 7.1 per cent, since the Christmas break.