CANADA FX DEBT-C$ flat as oil plunges, government skips details on stimulus

(Adds analyst quotes, details throughout; updates prices)

* Canadian dollar near flat at 1.3416

* Canada adds 30,300 jobs in February

* Price of U.S. oil falls more than 8%

* Canada’s 10-year yield hits a record low at 0.627%

By Fergal Smith

March 6 (Reuters) – The Canadian dollar was little changed against its broadly weaker U.S. counterpart on Friday as oil prices plunged and Canada’s finance minister provided few details on measures to tackle the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Canada will preserve its fiscal firepower even as it takes measures to help those who are hit by the pandemic, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said as the spread of the virus reached a new phase.

“It didn’t look like there was a lot of details on what exact form or size the stimulus would be,” said Mark Chandler, head of Canadian fixed income and currency strategy at RBC Capital Markets. “That’s what the market is wanting, is some clear direction on the exact help we are going to be getting on the fiscal side.”

Ottawa’s plan to preserve fiscal capacity could indicate that much of the initial support for the economy is being left to the Bank of Canada. On Wednesday, the central bank slashed interest rates by 50 basis points, its biggest move since March 2009.

“At this point it looks that way, as if the bank is seen as the first responder,” said Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.

The price of oil, one of Canada’s major exports, tanked more than 8% after Reuters reported that Russia balked at OPEC’s proposed steep production cuts to stabilize prices, while the U.S. dollar fell against a basket of major currencies as U.S. government bond yields sank.

At 1:04 p.m. EST (1804 GMT), the Canadian dollar was trading nearly unchanged at 1.3416 to the greenback, or 74.54 U.S. cents. The currency, which was down 0.1% for the week, traded in a range of 1.3380 to 1.3439.

Business districts around the world began to empty and stock markets tumbled as the number of coronavirus infections neared 100,000 and economic damage wrought by the outbreak intensified.

Concerns over the financial and market impact of the virus overshadowed backward-looking employment and trade data.

Canada’s economy added 30,300 jobs in February, entirely in full-time work, while the trade deficit widened to C$1.5 billion in January as exports fell, data from Statistics Canada showed.

Canada’s 10-year yield fell to a record low of 0.627% and was last down more than 11 basis points at 0.728%. (Additional reporting by Karen Brettell; Editing by David Gregorio and Dan Grebler)

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