Canada's industry minister sees C$ range as 'relatively steady'

By Randall Palmer and Louise Egan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's Industry Minister, James Moore, said on Friday that the Canadian dollar has been trading within a steady range, suggesting the government is not too worried about the currency's week-long slide to a four-year low.

"I think the range of fluctuations has been relatively steady," Moore told Reuters in a telephone interview, when asked if volatility in the foreign exchange rate was a concern.

"I know that this is an endless debate about the value of the dollar and what it means for firms. For some firms a higher dollar is a good thing and for others it creates challenges, and the inverse is equally true," he said.

The Canadian dollar hit a fresh four-year low against the U.S. dollar on Friday after Canadian data showed surprise job losses in December. The currency later traded at C$1.0893 to the greenback, or 91.80 U.S. cents, still weaker than Thursday's close of C$1.0852, or 92.15 U.S. cents.

The Canadian dollar in 2013 suffered its worst year since the financial crisis and many investors expect it to fall even further out of favor this year.

The Bank of Canada lets the exchange rate float freely and only intervenes in extraordinary circumstances, when extreme volatility is deemed a threat to the stability of the financial system. It has not intervened in markets to affect the value of the Canadian dollar since 1998.

Earlier on Friday, Moore, a rising star in Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government, answered several questions about the economy, jobs and the federal budget in a news conference in Vancouver where he announced details of an upcoming wireless spectrum auction.

These issues are usually the remit of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who issued a short statement on jobs on Friday.

Flaherty on Sunday told CTV television that Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz had recently indicated to a meeting of provincial and federal finance ministers that "there might be some softening in the dollar." Flaherty added that "with the dollar in the 90's somewhere, it's good for manufacturing and we can still travel reasonably."

Flaherty also weighed in on monetary policy in remarks that were criticized by some economists as inappropriate in a country where the central bank operates largely independently of the government of the day.

Moore, when pressed for further comment on the dollar, declined to comment.

"I think it would be imprudent for me as industry minister to comment and speculate on monetary policy. The impacts of a parity dollar versus an 80-cent dollar is something about which I know there is plenty of speculation that you can write about without my comments."

(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jeffrey Hodgson and Paul Simao)

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