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Canadian dollar advances amid strong U.S. housing data, mixed commodities

TORONTO - The Canadian dollar closed higher Friday amid mixed U.S. economic data and commodity prices.

The loonie was up 0.17 of a cent to 92.11 cents US as American housing starts for April came in at an annualized pace of 1.072 million units, higher than the 980,000 that economists had expected.

Financial markets have been pressured this week by fresh economic worries after data showed the recovery in Europe is more fragile than thought, while retail giant and economic barometer Wal-Mart Stores delivered a disappointing outlook for the second quarter.

The University of Michigan's latest consumer sentiment index also offered a glum reading Friday morning. The index registered 81.8 for this month, well below the 85 level that had been expected and lower than the 84.1 reading in April.

It has also been a remarkable week in the fixed income area where bond yields have fallen sharply amid equity market nervousness.

"On a month-to-date basis, portfolios have shifted away from equities and into bonds, but also away from the European periphery bond market into other sovereigns," said Camilla Sutton, chief FX strategist, managing director, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets.

"The impact has been a major shift in yields."

The benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury was at 2.52 per cent Friday afternoon, after starting the week at 2.66 per cent and going as low as 2.47 per cent on Thursday.

And the rally hasn't been confined to the U.S.

In Canada, intraday yields on 10-year Government of Canada bonds touched 2.22 per cent Thursday after sitting as high as 2.4 per cent earlier in the week. Late Friday morning, the Canadian 10-year yield stood at 2.264 per cent.

On the commodity markets, July copper was unchanged at US$3.15 a pound.

June gold bullion edged 20 cents lower to US$1,294 an ounce while June crude gained 52 cents to US$102.02 a barrel.

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