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Canada's dollar skidded to its lowest level in three and half months on Wednesday, back below parity against the U.S. dollar, as political disarray in Greece and the rising costs of fixing Spain's banks fueled fears about Europe's debt crisis.
The market's immediate attention was on Athens where efforts to form a government were expected to fail, putting its ability to meet the terms of its bailout deal in doubt and raising the possibility of Greece being forced out of the euro.
Meanwhile, Spain will demand banks set aside another $45 billion US against loans to builders as it battles to rebuild confidence, sources told Reuters. Huge bank losses have raised fears the country may need an international bailout.
Those concerns pushed the Canadian currency to $1.0064 against the U.S. dollar, or 99.36 U.S. cents, its weakest level since January 30.
"The Canadian dollar is suffering from overall broader themes on risk aversion stemming from the power shifts in Europe," said John Curran, senior vice president at CanadianForex.
"People didn't want to believe that it would happen. It is happening -- that Europe would rear its ugly head again."
At 9:15 a.m., the currency was at $1.0045 versus the greenback, or 99.55 U.S. cents, down from Tuesday's North American session close at $0.9983 versus the U.S. dollar, or $1.0017.
The Canadian dollar largely underperformed its G10 currency cousins including the euro and Japanese yen, and it broke through a recent trading range of $1.0050 against the U.S. dollar.
But it made gains against some other commodity-linked currencies, reaching a 2012 high of $1.0062 against the Australian dollar.
"It's Europe by and large ... it all lends itself to a market that is led and dominated by the flight to quality and flight to liquidity flow that we see in times like this," said Jack Spitz, managing director of foreign exchange at National Bank Financial.
"The market is looking to buy the U.S. dollar, buy the yen. Back to rumours, back to speculation about how bad things can get, rather than how good things can get, so 'the glass is half empty' is really the sentiment that the market seems to be taking from what's going on in Europe."
"It's more or less the 200-day moving average. We're hearing of stops at $1.0060-$1.0070 but we're still trading inside the range," added Spitz, noting Canadian monthly employment data due Friday will provide further direction.
The currency fell in tandem with global equity and commodity markets as concerns over Europe added to worries about the impact of softer growth in the U.S.
Canadian bond prices edged higher, tracking firmer U.S. Treasuries amid the risk-off tone in markets.
Canada's 2-year bond added 6 cents to yield 1.195 percent, while the benchmark 10-year bond rose 23 cents to yield 1.947 percent.