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The US dollar (USD, US$) is the world’s leading international reserve unit and the most frequently used currency in foreign exchange transactions. The Canadian dollar (CAD, C$) is the official currency of Canada and is also one of the top-held reserve currencies. Canada and the United States have a long history of international money transfer and economic collaboration, and the currency relationship between the two countries is one of the most important in the world. Both dollars are on floating exchange rates, where their values are set by free-market supply and demand.
While the Canadian dollar to US dollar exchange rate (CAD to USD) has varied considerably in the last twenty years, the CAD has typically been the weaker of the two. Over a 50-year period, however, the CAD to USD exchange rate has fluctuated between a low of US$0.6202 to a peak of US$1.0852 to the Canadian dollar. Since early 2000, the CAD has traded in a range with the US dollar of US$0.6246 to US$1.0455. The average exchange rate for this currency pair between 2000-2015 is US$0.8534.
In the early years of this century, the US dollar had the upper hand; the Canadian dollar traded between a value of US$0.66 and US$0.68 between January 2000 and March 2003. In April 2003, however, as the US economy faltered from the first technology crash and lowered housing prices, the Canadian dollar began to gain ground against a weakening US dollar. By the end of 2003 the CAD had risen to a conversion rate of CAD to USD US$0.7613 and it continued to climb, reaching a then-high point of US$0.90 in May 2006.
With the onset of the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007-2008, which quickly morphed into a full blown economic downturn, the Canadian dollar rose sharply against the USD. The CAD to USD exchange rate jumped by over 21% in nine months, from US$0.8536 in February 2007 to US$1.0396 in November. This was the first time the Canadian dollar surpassed the value of the USD since October 1976.
Over the next two years, the US economy was weighed down by a number of issues, including a weakened financial sector, rising unemployment, stagnating wages, shrinking corporate investments, lowered consumer consumption, and a depressed housing market. Even though the Canadian economy had started to soften in 2011 as the global recession and the subprime mortgage crisis began to have an effect, the CAD dollar was still trading at a premium to the US dollar, though it was fluctuating in a range of CAD to USD $0.97 to $1.02 from 2009-2012. However, in February 2013, the CAD’s value finally dipped below that of the USD, and it has yet to rise above this level since.
Since early 2013, the CAD has steadily lost value against the USD as the American economy began to see solid improvements. US oil and gas output has risen, reducing its demand on imports, and an improved climate has seen employment levels and private sector output improve. The US dollar surged ahead in 2014, rising against all major world currencies for the first time since 2000. By January 2014, the CAD had fallen to a value of US$0.9141 by January 2014, and by a further 10% to US$0.8249 by January 2015.
Part of this can be attributed to Canada’s weakened economy, which has been slowed by lingering effects from the global recession. Canada continues to struggle with a large amount of public debt and persistent unemployment levels. There are concerns of an aging workforce that even an influx of immigrants will not be able to fully address. A moderate slowdown in energy and commodity investing has also had an effect on Canada’s economy and near-term outlook.
In early 2015, Goldman Sachs predicted a strong US recovery that would continue through at least 2017. All predictions for the Canadian economy point to a moderately-growing economy, with continued, yet slightly lower, global demand for commodities and energy helping to offset a shrinking workforce.
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