Canadian dollar and oil slide to 13-year lows, stocks sell off

The Canadian dollar and oil both hit new 13-year lows, while North American stock markets saw major sell-offs.

TSX tumbles 263 points, Dow dives 391

Since the start of the year, the loonie has lost more than three cents against the American dollar. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

The Canadian dollar and oil both hit new 13-year lows Friday, while North American stock markets staged major sell-offs. 

The loonie dropped as low as 68.74 cents early in the trading session, recovering slightly by the end of the day to close at 68.82 cents US, off by more than four-fifths of a cent from Thursday's close.  

The last time the loonie was worth less than 69 cents US was nearly 13 years ago, in April 2003.

"There is no sign of the [U.S. dollar] rally slowing or reversing," Scotiabank currency analysts Eric Theoret and Suhaun Osborne said. "There is no apparent reason for the trend to change at this point either."

This was the 11th straight day that the Canadian currency has dropped against its U.S. counterpart. Bloomberg says that's the longest losing streak since the Canadian dollar's peg to the U.S. dollar ended in 1970.

The Canadian dollar was also down against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.

On the commodity markets, February crude oil futures settled at $29.42 US a barrel, down $1.78 from Thursday's close. That's oil's first close below $30 US a barrel since 2003 and brings the plunge in crude in the last two weeks alone to 20 per cent. The falling price of crude — from more than $100 US a barrel in the summer of 2014 — has been a major reason for the loonie's fall.

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"Lower oil prices are still a net negative for the Canadian economy and for the Canadian dollar," BMO chief economist Douglas Porter said in a Friday commentary. "The currency is likely to remain under downward pressure until oil prices bottom out, which we don't see happening until [the second quarter]."

Oil has been sliding amid growing worries that China's economy is slowing dramatically. Crude oil futures are also being pressured by expectations that Iran will increase oil exports once international sanctions are lifted. That would add even more oil to a global supply glut.  

North American stock markets got off to a rough start and the pessimism lasted all day. At the close, the benchmark index of the Toronto Stock Exchange was down 263 points to 12,073, a drop of 2.1 per cent. That's its lowest close since June 2013.

All 10 sectors in the TSX lost ground, led by losses in energy and financial stocks.

People are uncertain, and when they're uncertain, they're scared.- Dan Farley, U.S. Bank strategist

The selling was just as brisk in New York, where the Dow Jones industrial average ended the day down 391 points, or 2.4 per cent, to 15,988. All 30 Dow stocks closed lower.

"Oil is the root cause of today," said Dan Farley, regional investment strategist at the Private Client Reserve at U.S. Bank. "People are uncertain, and when they're uncertain, they're scared."

Disappointing data on U.S. retail sales and manufacturing also weighed on the market. 

Overseas markets were also down sharply, with Shanghai's main benchmark index closing with a loss of 3.6 per cent.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press