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Bank of Canada's Poloz denies trying to lower the loonie

Bank of Canada chief Stephen Poloz says he's focused on inflation.

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Bank of Canada chief Stephen Poloz says he's focused on inflation. (RYAN REMIORZ / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

MONTREAL -- Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz says he remains focused on achieving his inflation target over the next two years and hasn't been sending signals that would depress the Canadian dollar in order to boost exports.

"We don't form a view on what the dollar should be at any point in time," he told reporters Thursday following his first speech in Montreal since taking the top job at the central bank.

"Our focus is on inflation and will our forecast work out that gets inflation back to target around two years from now? That's our main preoccupation and markets will choose to grind out an exchange rate independently of that."

Economists have described Poloz' recent comments about a possible rate cut as a dovish signal to push down the currency. But he said that view and the bank's decision in October to no longer talk about when rates will return to more normal levels is merely being "honest."

"We think that interest rates will stay where they are for quite some time and so issuing a warning that they're almost ready to go up is not the right timing for this. Of course we believe it will happen as the story unfolds, but the destination seems far enough away that we can address that as we get closer."

His remarks suggested the bank is prepared to keep its trendsetting overnight interest rate fixed at one per cent -- where it's been for more than three years -- well into 2015 and possibly into 2016. And, if inflation were to fall further, it might even cut short-term interest rates.

CIBC economist Emanuella Enenajor said Poloz' comments confirm the bank's view that the central bank isn't leaning towards a rate cut or hike.

"Overall, no big surprises, but potentially disappointing for those who may have been looking for Poloz to sound more dovish or talk down the currency," she wrote in a report.

Since breaking with his predecessor in dropping the bank's tightening bias, inflation has kept sliding, dipping to 0.7 per cent in October, although underlying price pressures remained more buoyant at 1.2 per cent. The dollar has slipped to 93.98 cents U.S.

Poloz said it was only natural many currencies would rise against the U.S. dollar after the economic crisis prompted the world's largest economy to ease its monetary policy. But as confidence grows south of the border on improving economic data, other currencies, including the loonie, should be expected to reverse direction.

However, the magnitude of the change depends on many factors, including oil prices and Canada's reputation as a place to invest.

Poloz also said housing demand is following a predictable course, initially slowing as federal officials tightened mortgage insurance rules and underwriting standards and then increasing as buyers advanced their purchases as long-term interest rates began to rise in the summer.

-- The Canadian Press

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