CANADA FX DEBT-C$ extends gains, helped by China trade data

Reuters

* Canadian dollar at C$1.0993 or 90.97 U.S. cents * Bond prices lower across the maturity curve By Leah Schnurr TORONTO, Feb 12 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar firmed against the greenback on Wednesday, extending recent gains after data from China showed surprisingly strong growth in imports, hitting a six-month high in January, in the world's second-largest economy.

The currency strengthened through the C$1.10 barrier in the overnight session, but then gave back some of the gains as analysts expressed some skepticism over the reliability of the Chinese figures.

Still, the robust trade performance tempered fears of a deepening economic malaise in China. As a resource producer, Canada's currency is often sensitive to economic data out of China, a major consumer of commodities.

The Canadian dollar has strengthened in four of five sessions, recouping losses after hitting a 4-1/2 year low at the end of January.

Still, most analysts expect more weakness in store for the loonie as it continues to be driven by a Bank of Canada stance that is unlikely to lead to higher interest rates any time soon.

"What we will find is that the Canadian dollar reprieve will provide some U.S. dollar-buying opportunities at a much more favorable level," said Dean Popplewell, chief currency strategist at OANDA in Toronto.

"The Canadian dollar is really stuck in a 4 or 5 cent contained range." The Canadian dollar was at C$1.0993 to the greenback, or 90.97 U.S. cents, stronger than Tuesday's close of C$1.1017, or 90.77 U.S. cents.

The release of the Canadian government's 2014-15 budget on Tuesday, which put the country on course to balance its books in 2015 or even sooner, had little impact on the loonie.

The budget showed a smaller-than-expected deficit for the 2014-15 fiscal year and estimated a bigger surplus than anticipated the following year, but analysts said the news had largely been priced in by the currency market.

Canadian government bond prices were lower across the maturity curve, with the two-year off 0.8 Canadian cents to yield 1.017 percent, and the benchmark 10-year down 7 Canadian cents to yield 2.469 percent.

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