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Bank of Canada cuts interest rates

The Bank of Canada today announced that it is lowering its target for the overnight rate by one-quarter of one percentage point to 4 1/4 per cent. The operating band for the overnight rate is correspondingly lowered, and the Bank Rate is now 4 1/2 per cent. The Bank is likely to trim rates again in January, although the tone of today’s press release does not hint at a significant easing campaign. The Bank is still officially concerned about upside risks to inflation (given a very low jobless rate), but the credit squeeze and a possible U.S. recession are the dominant concerns now.

The Bank of Canada lowered interest rates yesterday, and took some pressure off the nervous borrowers and hard-pressed exporters and manufacturers feeling the sting of the soaring Canadian dollar. But the central bank also issued a dark forecast, raising concerns about weakening demand in the U.S. economy and continuing turmoil in global financial markets.

Canada's big banks followed suit, lowering their prime lending rate to 6 per cent, and adjusting some of their mortgage and GIC rates. Economists say this could be the first in a series of rate cuts meant to protect Canada's economy.

The Canadian dollar, which reached an all-time high in early November, lost more than one US cent after yesterday's announcement. The currency, known as the loonie, was trading at 98.5 US cents at mid-morning, down from its peak of $1.10.

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