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Loonie ends slightly higher amid improving trade numbers

Canadian dollars.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Canadian dollar closed little changed Thursday amid positive trade data and moves to stimulate the European economy.

The loonie drifted 0.02 of a cent lower to 99.18 cents (U.S.) as Statistics Canada reported that Canada's trade balance went from a deficit of $1.2-billion (Canadian) in February to a surplus of $24-million in March. Economists had widely expected the balance would show a $700-million deficit.

Exports grew 5.1 per cent to $40.5-billion in March, with energy shipments up almost 4 per cent.

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Imports rose for a third consecutive month to reach $40.4-billion, their second-highest value on record.

Commodity prices also advanced and sentiment was positive on markets after the European Central Bank cut its key rate to help the euro zone shake off the deep economic malaise that set in as a result of the region's government debt crisis.

The ECB on Thursday cut the rate to 0.5 per cent from 0.75 per cent.

Economists, however, warn that this cut may not have much direct effect since banks are not passing on low rates in indebted countries that need help the most.

Commodities clawed back some of the steep losses racked up Wednesday after weak readings on manufacturing raised concerns about the Chinese and American economies.

The June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose $2.96 (U.S.) to $93.99 a barrel after data showing a bigger-than-expected rise in U.S. oil inventories helped send oil down almost $2.50 a barrel Wednesday

July copper gained 2 cents to $3.10 a pound after tumbling 11 cents, while June gold bullion recovered most of Wednesday's loss, up $21.40 to $1,467.60 an ounce.

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