Bank of Canada Raised Rates At First 2023 Meeting – Is This The Last Time?

General Michelle Foster 26 Jan

No Surprises Here: The Bank of Canada Hiked Rates By Only 25 bps, Signalling A Pause

As expected, the Bank of Canada–satisfied with the sharp decline in recent inflation pressure–raised the policy rate by only 25 bps to 4.5%. Forecasting that inflation will return to roughly 3.0% later this year and to the target of 2% in 2024 is subject to considerable uncertainty.

The Bank acknowledges that recent economic growth in Canada has been stronger than expected, and the economy remains in excess demand. Labour markets are still tight, and the unemployment rate is at historic lows. “However, there is growing evidence that restrictive monetary policy is slowing activity, especially household spending. Consumption growth has moderated from the first half of 2022 and housing market activity has declined substantially. As the effects of interest rate increases continue to work through the economy, spending on consumer services and business investment is expected to slow. Meanwhile, weaker foreign demand will likely weigh on exports. This overall slowdown in activity will allow supply to catch up with demand.”

The report says, “Canada’s economy grew by 3.6% in 2022, slightly stronger than was projected in October. Growth is expected to stall through the middle of 2023, picking up later in the year. The Bank expects GDP growth of about 1% in 2023 and about 2% in 2024, little changed from the October outlook. This is consistent with the Bank’s expectation of a soft landing in the economy.

Inflation has declined from 8.1% in June to 6.3% in December, reflecting lower gasoline prices and, more recently, moderating prices for durable goods.”

Short-term inflation expectations remain elevated. Year-over-year measures of core inflation are still around 5%, but 3-month measures of core inflation have come down, suggesting that core inflation has peaked.

The BoC says, “Inflation is projected to come down significantly this year. Lower energy prices, improvements in global supply conditions, and the effects of higher interest rates on demand are expected to bring CPI inflation down to around 3% in the middle of this year and back to the 2% target in 2024.” (the emphasis is mine.)

The Bank will continue its policy of quantitative tightening, another restrictive measure. The Governing Council expects to hold the policy rate at 4.5% while it assesses the cumulative impact of the eight rate hikes in the past year. They then say, “Governing Council is prepared to increase the policy rate further if needed to return inflation to the 2% target, and remains resolute in its commitment to restoring price stability for Canadians”.

Bottom Line

The Bank of Canada was the first major central bank to tighten this cycle, and now it is the first to announce a pause and assert they expect inflation to fall to 3% by mid-year and 2% in 2024.

No rate hike is likely on March 8 or April 12. This may lead many to believe that rates have peaked so buyers might tiptoe back into the housing market. This is not what the Bank of Canada would like to see. Hence OSFI might tighten the regulatory screws a bit when the April 14 comment period is over.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres

Will Rates Increase Again in 2023?

General Michelle Foster 6 Jan

Employment Report Ended 2022 With A Boom
Today’s Labour Force Survey for December was much stronger than expected, raising the odds of a 25 bps increase in the policy rate by the Bank of Canada on January 25th. While the Bank has hiked rates by 400 bps to 4.25%, core inflation remains sticky, wages have risen by more than 5% for the seventh consecutive month in December, and Q4 GDP is running well above the Bank’s forecast of 0.5%. Employment rose by 104,000 last month, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.0%–just above the 50-year low of 4.9% posted in June and July. Indeed, the jobless rate would have fallen even further had the labour force participation rate not ticked upward as discouraged workers re-enter the jobs market when vacancies are plentiful. Employment rose the most for youth and people aged 55 and older. Throughout 2022 the employment rate of core-aged women hovered around record highs. On average, 81.0% of core-aged women were employed, the highest annual rate since 1976 and 1.3 percentage points higher than in 2019. Much of this increase has been among women with young children. On average, during 2022, 75.2% of core-aged women with at least one child under six years of age were working at a job or business, up 3.3 percentage points compared with 2019.The increase in employment in December was driven by full-time work, which rose for a third consecutive month.  Full-time work also led employment growth for the year ending in December 2022.Employment rose in multiple industries, notably construction, transportation, and warehousing.Job gains were reported in Ontario, Alberta, BC, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan.  There was little change in the other provinces.
Bottom LineThe Canadian economy has also been boosted by strength in the US, where nonfarm payroll employment rose by 223,000 in December, and the unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, matching a five-decade low.Governor Tiff Macklem and his officials have slowed down the rate hikes (from 75 bps to 50 bps) and signalled that future decisions would depend on economic data. Indeed, the most recent GDP and today’s jobs report point to continued economic strength. The October and November gains in GDP suggest Canada’s growth is holding up better than expected. The economy is on track to expand at an annualized rate of 1.2% in the fourth quarter, exceeding the central bank’s expectations. The December CPI report will be released on Jan 17, ahead of the Jan 25 Bank of Canada decision. That will be closely watched as well.In other news, housing market activity continued to slow in December. Home sales plummeted in the country’s largest metro areas by 30%-to-50% as buyers and sellers moved to the sidelines. Housing is the most interest-sensitive sector and has been slowing since the Bank began hiking interest rates last March. Greater Vancouver led the way, with sales falling 52% year-over-year, while the Greater Toronto Area saw a 48% decline. Montreal followed with a 39% annual decline, whereas sales were down 30% in both Calgary and Ottawa.Average prices continued to fall in most of the metro areas. The MLS Home Price Index benchmark is now down 9% year-over-year in the Greater Toronto Area. In Calgary, however, average prices remain nearly 8% above year-ago levels.
Dr. Sherry CooperChief Economist, Dominion Lending