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Feb 1, 2017

‘We’re just roadkill’: Why Stephen Poloz’s jawboning can’t keep the loonie down

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Canada’s currency isn’t cooperating with Stephen Poloz’s jawboning.

The Bank of Canada governor has routinely taken aim at the loonie, and Tuesday night in a speech at the University of Alberta business school, he reiterated the recent run-up is a headwind for Canadian exporters.

But his warnings haven’t had a lasting impact. On Tuesday, the dollar touched the highest level since September as forces beyond the central bank’s script propel it higher. As of 7:03 a.m. ET Thursday, the dollar was trading at 76.95 cents US.

Another money manager told BNN  Trump’s trade policies will keep pressuring the bank into doing all it can to drive the currency down in 2017.

Greg Taylor, portfolio manager at LOGiQ Asset Management, said that even though the Canadian dollar had a surprisingly good performance in January, the loonie will still move downward this year.

"I think the Bank of Canada is going to do everything they can to lower the Canadian dollar to try and stimulate exports," he said in an interview Tuesday.

“I think it’s going to be a hard struggle,” David Baskin, the president of Baskin Wealth Management, told BNN Wednesday. “I don’t think the United States has come to terms with the fact that if it drives the value of the U.S. dollar down, say five per cent, against the euro and the [Chinese] yuan and other currencies, that retail prices for what people buy at Wal-Mart go up five per cent or more.

“He wants his cake and he wants to eat it too,” Baskin said, referring to Trump’s protectionist trade policies. “I think Canada is not really on the radar as much as China and the EU, simply because of the nature of the things which we export and the way that they are integrated into NAFTA trade policy.”

He went on to acknowledge that the loonie would inevitably be impacted when Trump comments on the U.S. dollar. On Tuesday, Peter Navarro, Trump’s top trade adviser, said that the euro was “grossly undervalued,” a comment that caused the U.S. dollar tumble.

However, Baskin said there isn’t much the Bank of Canada can do to lessen the impact of Trump’s policies.

“We are the victim of a drive-by shooting,” he said. “We’re collateral damage. We’re just roadkill. And there’s not much Stephen Poloz can do about that.”

Ed Devlin, head of Canadian portfolio management at PIMCO, warned that if U.S. President Donald Trump implements protectionist trade policies, there could be major ramifications for the loonie.

“I’d say there is a risk of an extreme outcome if Canada becomes collateral damage in the renegotiation of NAFTA,” he told BNN in an interview.  

He said the loonie dropping down to 70 cents against the greenback was “realistic,” especially if the Fed hikes rates as it’s widely expected to, and if the Bank of Canada keeps rates on hold. But if protectionist trade policies come out of the States, the dollar’s dip could be closer to 10 cents, Devlin said.

On the other hand, he noted the loonie could see strength as a result of the Keystone XL pipeline project, which was revived last week. 

“We do think that the U.S. dollar will probably rise against a basket of currencies including the Canadian dollar,” Devlin said. “Again, it will come down to these judgments that the Trump administration is going to make with regards to trade and some other economic decisions they have to make. It could be a really bad outcome, it could be a really good income.”


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