By Solarina Ho
TORONTO, Aug 17 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar pared back gains against the U.S. dollar on Friday after the country's inflation data were weaker than expected in July, diminishing odds the Bank of Canada will hike interest rates anytime soon.
Consumers paid less for clothing and fuels such as gasoline and natural gas in the month compared with a year earlier, easing the annual inflation rate to 1.3 percent from 1.5 percent in June. Analysts had expected inflation to be unchanged from June. "This morning's CPI report was obviously a little bit weaker than the market was expecting. It does give reason for the Canadian dollar to fall today," said Greg Moore, FX Strategist at TD Securities, but added that the currency will likely continue to test the C$0.9800 level.
"Today's moves really weren't that far outside of the bull range that's been persisting for the past month ... Regardless of the small moves today which you can credit to the CPI release, it doesn't really say much about where the currency might go in the next few days," said Moore.
Canada's dollar ended the session at C$0.9891 to the U.S. dollar, or $1.0110, weaker than Thursday's close at C$0.9867, or $1.0135. It fell as low as C$0.9902 to the U.S. dollar, or $1.0099 following the inflation data.
"We are medium term CAD bulls; but are concerned that in the near-term CAD might have gotten a bit ahead of itself here. Regardless, parity has become a very comfortable place for CAD and we do not expect a substantial move in either direction," Camilla Sutton, Chief Currency Strategist at Scotiabank, wrote in a note.
Overnight index swaps, which trade based on expectations for the central bank's key policy rate, showed that traders slightly decreased bets on any chance of a rate hike after the inflation data. The Federal Reserve's FOMC minutes will be closely watched next week for further currency direction, while Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney is expected to speak at an event. Market watchers will look closely for any change in the Canadian central bank's hawkish tone.
The Canadian dollar also backed off from a record high against the euro hit in the previous session, though it rallied against the Australian dollar on Friday, touching its strongest level since late June.
Canadian bond prices picked up and yields fell following the disappointing inflation data.
The interest-rate sensitive two-year bond rose 7.5 Canadian cents, yielding 1.201 percent, while the benchmark 10-year bond was up 13 Canadian cents, yielding 1.949 percent.Reporting by Solarina Ho; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
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