Loonie hits parity for 1st time since May

Higher oil prices and a more favourable view for Canada's major export helped push the loonie above parity with the U.S. dollar early today.

'It finally got across the finish line,' analyst says

The Canadian dollar on touched parity with the U.S. dollar for the first time since May. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The Canadian dollar briefly touched above the $1 US level today, driven by higher oil prices and a more favourable view for Canada's major export.

The loonie was changing hands at 100.13 cents US in the afternoon, up 0.84 of a cent — the first time since May 8 that that has happened.

"The Canadian dollar for the last three days was trying to break through and it finally got across the finish line," Forex Live currency analyst Adam Button said in an interview.

Somewhat counterintuitively, new data out of the U.S. showing the American economy adding 163,000 jobs in July actually increased investors' appetite for risk, which weakens the value of the U.S. dollar and boosts the loonie.

"It is basically a 'risk on' rally after the strong U.S. payroll data," RBC analyst George Davis said. "With equities rallying strongly, risk sensitive currencies such as the [loonie and Australian dollar] have all moved higher in lock-step. We have also seen the [loonie] register gains against the [British pound and the Japanese yen] which has helped underpin the move to parity."

So the loonie's rally Friday is more a story of weakness in its U.S. counterpart than of genuine strength in the loonie.

Oil prices are also a factor.

Crude oil gained $4.40 a barrel to trade at $91.53 in New York. That rally was mainly caused by Tropical Storm Ernesto threatening the Gulf of Mexico, which could possibly knock out some oil supply and drive up prices.

"Traders are readjusting their oil holdings heading into the weekend," Button said.

A barrel of oil is priced in U.S. dollars, but strength in the commodity is closely linked to the value of the Canadian dollar.

Button expects the loonie to hover around parity for a few days.

"Eventually you'll see a strong move one way or the other once we get some direction in the global economy, [but] unless there's a major event this weekend, I'd expect we'll see it hover around here for a few days," he said.