CANADA FX DEBT-C$ firms to two-week high on strong economic data

Reuters

* Canadian dollar at C$1.0992 or 90.98 U.S. cents * Bond prices lower across the maturity curve By Leah Schnurr TORONTO, March 6 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar hit a two-week high against the greenback on Thursday, boosted by stronger-than-expected economic data and as investors were optimistic that diplomatic efforts would cool tensions in Ukraine.

Data showed the value of building permits issued in Canada jumped 8.5 percent in January, far surpassing economists' forecasts. In addition, construction intentions in the residential sector hit a record high.

Separate data showed the pace of purchasing activity picked up in February, beating expectations for a slowdown.

"We really had this strong Canadian data that came out and I think that also boosted some of the sentiment," said Rahim Madhavji, president at KnightsbridgeFX.com in Toronto.

"We saw a pretty strong rally for the loonie, which is something we really haven't seen in a long time." The loonie also benefited from some better risk appetite in markets broadly as European leaders gathered for an emergency summit looking for ways to pressure Russia to back down after Russian forces effectively seized Crimea.

"What we're seeing is the hope or expectation that there will be a diplomatic resolution to everything," said Scott Smith, senior market analyst at Cambridge Mercantile Group in Calgary.

Even so, Crimea's parliament voted to join Russia, setting a referendum within 10 days that could potentially mark an escalation of tensions in the region.

The Canadian dollar ended the North American session at C$1.0992 to the greenback, or 90.98 U.S. cents, stronger than Wednesday's close of C$1.1038, or 90.60 U.S. cents. The loonie hit a session high of C$1.0955, its highest since Feb. 19.

Investors were turning their attention to unemployment data that will be released early Friday in both Canada and the United States. Canada is forecast to have added 15,000 jobs in February, a slower pace than the month before, while the unemployment rate is seen holding steady at 7 percent.

Market participants were also digesting Wednesday's strong move higher for the Canadian dollar after the Bank of Canada kept to its neutral policy stance, rather than turning even more dovish as some had feared.

Canadian government bond prices were lower across the maturity curve, with the two-year down 2 Canadian cents to yield 1.055 percent and the benchmark 10-year down 28 Canadian cents to yield 2.508 percent.

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