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August 21st 2010

CAD: Steady as She Goes

The Canadian Dollar was supposed to be one of the “hot” currencies of 2010. Given that it’s now exactly where it started the year, I think it’s safe to say that this isn’t the case. On the one hand, it would seem that the markets are still confused about how much the CAD should be worth, as Adam recently pointed out. An alternative interpretation is that investors believe the Loonie should trade near parity with the US Dollar; it has hovered just above that mark since breaching it in April.

CAD USD 1 Year
The Canadian Dollar has benefited from strong fundamentals, especially compared to the US. Inflation is low and the economy is stable. “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently said that Canada is likely to be the first of the seven major industrialized democracies to return to a budgetary surplus status by 2015.” 2010 GDP growth is projected at 3.3%, compared to around 2.5% in the US.

Canada-GDP-Growth-Rate-Chart-2006-2010

For this reason, “Pacific Investment Management Co. founder Bill Gross said he favors Canada…he’s ‘in awe’ of countries such as Canada that have a low debt-to-gross-domestic- product ratio and solvent financial institutions. ‘North of the border’ has become a ‘preferable destination’ to what he sees in the U.S.” As a result, analysts have started to look beyond commodities, historically seen as the cornerstone of Canada’s economy. When the price of oil collapsed in May, the Loonie hardly budged. Given that Canada’s balance of trade is negative in spite of its commodity exports, maybe in focus is justified.

CAD Versus Oil Prices 2010
The Loonie is also benefiting from a positive interest rate differential with the US. Thanks to two consecutive rate hikes by the Bank of Canada (BOC) – which was the first G7 Central bank to tighten – Canada’s benchmark rate now exceeds the Federal Funds Rate by .5%. If the BOC fulfills expectations and hikes rates again at its meeting on September 8, this differential will widen further. In fact, it could continue expanding well into 2011, since the BOC is well ahead of the Fed in its monetary policy cycle. Here, again, the contrast with the US is self-evident: “The Canadian central bank has been raising interest rates, and has signaled that it will continue to raise interest rates. And with the Fed’s decision today reaffirming its dovish position, the interest rate differential will continue to favor increasingly Canada, and higher interest rates in Canada will continue to favor Canadian dollar strength.”

Bank of Canada 2000-2010 Interest Rate Hike Forecast

Throughout the rest of the summer, the Loonie will likely remain rangebound. Most traders are on vacation and trading volume is low. Besides, risk appetite is currently weak. When the markets return to full swing in September, I expect the Loonie will experience in a surge in volatility. In fact, investors are already starting to adjust their positions, with the most recent Commitment of Traders report showing an increase in Net Longs, bringing the total to $4.2 Billion.

There is certainly a basis for predicting continued strength, but I think much depends on how commodity prices perform. As I pointed out above, the Loonie remains somewhat decoupled from commodities. That it nonetheless got a boost from strong wheat prices and the $40 Billion takeover bid for Potash Corp by mining giant BHP Biliton shows that investors still view Canada as a resource economy. If the global economy avoids a double-dip recession, commodities prices will probably recover and the Loonie will probably rise slowly towards parity. On the flip-side, the Loonie would be one of the big losers of a global slide back into recession.

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Posted by Linda Goin | in Canadian Dollar, News | 2 Comments »

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2 Comments of “CAD: Steady as She Goes”

  1. Sam Says:

    CAD strength is currently dictated by the weakness of the majors.. Once we head out of the global recession, the CAD will probably return to sub-par levels with the US dollar..

  2. Austin Says:

    The Loonie is also benefiting from a positive interest rate differential with the US

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