No Rate Hike For The 2nd Time In A Row

General Michelle Foster 13 Apr

The Bank of Canada Holds Rates Steady Again But Maintains Its Commitment To 2% Inflation
The Bank of Canada left the overnight policy rate at 4.5%, as expected, stating their view that inflation will hit 3% by mid-year and reach the 2% target by next year. They admit, however, that demand continues to exceed supply, wage gains are too high, and labour markets are still very tight. The Bank is also continuing its policy of quantitative tightening. “Economic growth in the first quarter looks to be stronger than was projected in January, with a bounce in exports and solid consumption growth. While the Bank’s Business Outlook Survey suggests acute labour shortages are starting to ease, wage growth is still elevated relative to productivity growth. Strong population gains are adding to labour supply and supporting employment growth while also boosting aggregate consumption. Housing market activity remains subdued.”The Bank expects consumption spending to moderate this year “as more households renew their mortgages at higher rates and restrictive monetary policy works its way through the economy more broadly.”“Overall, GDP growth is projected to be weak through the remainder of this year before strengthening gradually next year. This implies the economy will move into excess supply in the second half of this year. The Bank now projects Canada’s economy to grow by 1.4% this year and 1.3% in 2024 before picking up to 2.5% in 2025”.
Most economists believe the Bank of Canada will hold the overnight rate at 4.5% for the remainder of this year and begin cutting interest rates in 2024. A few even think that rate cuts will begin late this year. In contrast, the Fed hiked the overnight fed funds rate by 25 bps on March 22 despite the banking crisis and the expectation that credit conditions would tighten. This morning, the US released its March CPI report showing inflation has fallen to 5% year-over-year. Next Tuesday, April 18, Canada will do the same. The base year effect has depressed y/y inflation. Canada’s CPI will likely have a four-handle.Fed officials next meet in early May, and it is widely expected that the Fed will continue to raise the policy rate while the Bank will continue the pause.Due to the differences in our mortgage markets and the higher debt-to-income level in Canada, our economy is much more interest-sensitive. Despite these disparate expectations, the Canadian dollar has held up relatively well.
Bottom LineThe Bank of Canada upgraded its growth projections for this year in a new forecast, suggesting the odds of a soft landing have increased. This may preclude interest rate cuts this year. “Governing Council continues to assess whether monetary policy is sufficiently restrictive to relieve price pressures and remains prepared to raise the policy rate further if needed to return inflation to the 2% target,” the bank said.The April Monetary Policy Report suggests strong Q1 growth resulted from substantial immigration. With the population proliferating, labour shortages should continue to decline, and inflation will fall to 3% later this year. The global growth backdrop is better than expected, though the Bank continues to look for a slowdown in the coming months, citing the lagged effects of rate hikes and the recent banking sector strains.Governor Macklem said in the press conference that the economy needs cooler growth to corral inflation, although the Bank’s forecast does not include an outright recession.The Bank will refrain from cutting rates this year. The Governor explicitly said at the press conference that market pricing of rate cuts later this year is not the most likely scenario.
Dr. Sherry CooperChief Economist, Dominion Lending Centresdrsherrycooper@dominionlending.ca

Wait – My Home Is Worth How Much??

General Michelle Foster 6 Feb

Person with calculator
You received your property assessment notice in the mail in January and it says your home is worth a certain amount, but how does your municipality determine that value?

The value on your assessment was actually decided on July 1st of the previous year. Property assessors look at the real estate market conditions in your area as of July 1st, then analyze data from throughout the year from a variety of sources to establish a probable value, or the price they think your home would have sold for on the open market.

Assessors use certain criteria when assigning a value: the style, size, age, and condition of your home all factor in, as does the lot size, location factors (nearby parks, commercial buildings, neighbourhood, etc), and outside structures like garages, swimming pools, and more. If your home had any major changes in structure or condition by Dec 31st, that will also be reflected on your assessment.

If you think your home value is incorrect and want to have the municipality reassess it, you have until March 24th to file a complaint.
By the end of May, the municipality will use those assessment numbers from January to calculate how much property tax you will owe for the year and send out your property tax notice. You then have 1 month to pay your tax bill. You may already have signed up with the Tax Installment Payment Plan, in which case your taxes would already be paid, or your mortgage lender may pay your taxes for you. If you’re not sure, please contact me and I can help you navigate the property tax process!

*Please note, as I am based in Edmonton, this information is Edmonton-specific. The processes and many dates will be the same across Alberta, but check with your own local municipality to confirm important dates.

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
drsherrycooper@dominionlending.ca

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 Centresdrsherrycooper@dominionlending.ca

Blockbuster Canadian Jobs Report for February

Latest News Michelle Foster 11 Mar

Canada Reached Full-Employment in February

Statistics Canada released the February Labour Force Survey this morning, reporting a much more significant than expected 336,600 net new jobs, with the unemployment rate falling a full percentage point to 5.5%. This is the first time the unemployment rate fell below its pre-Covid level and reinforces the expectation for another Bank of Canada rate hike in April and as many as five more increases this year. Last month’s recovery more than offsets the losses that coincided with the Omicron lockdowns in January and points to the continued resilience of the Canadian economy.

The loonie jumped on the news, as did Canadian government bond yields.

Other indicators point to an increasingly tight labour market in February. Total hours worked surged 3.6% to a record high, while the employment rate rose 1.0 percentage points to 61.8%. Gains were most notable in the hard-hit accommodation and food services sector (+114,000; +12.6%), and information, culture and recreation (+73,000; +9.9%) industries. Employment increases were widespread across provinces and demographic groups.

Average wages increased 3.1% from February 2020, significantly faster than the 2.4% rate recorded in January. That could signal that inflationary pressures, already intense, continue to build.

 

Bottom Line 

This Labour Force Survey was conducted in mid-February, before the start of the Ukrainian War. since then, many commodity prices have surged, especially oil, gasoline, aluminum, wheat and fertilizer. This will accelerate CPI inflation worldwide, which dampens consumer and business confidence and reduces family purchasing power. The war has also contributed to continuing supply disruptions, all of which point to increased uncertainty and potentially slower growth.

The Bank of Canada is likely to hike interest rates when it meets again on April 13 by 25 basis points. Any more than that is imprudent given the risk of an economic slowdown. The outlook for the remainder of this year is more uncertain and likely to be volatile, depending on how long the war lasts. Right now, the likelihood for another five or six rate hikes this year and a few more next year. This, however, is subject to change.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
drsherrycooper@dominionlending.ca

Why Didn’t the Bank of Canada Raise Interest Rates In January?

General Michelle Foster 4 Feb

Statistics Canada released the January Labour Force Survey this morning, reporting a much more extensive than expected decline in jobs last month. The Omicron shutdowns and restrictions took a much larger toll in Canada than expected, as employment fell 200,100 in January and the unemployment rate rose 0.5 percentage points to 6.5%.

Ontario and Quebec drove January employment declines, and accommodation and food services was the hardest-hit industry. In January, youth and core-aged women, who are more likely than other demographic groups to work in industries affected by the public health measures, saw the most significant impacts. Goods-producing sectors recorded a gain, led by construction.

We did not expect the Bank of Canada to hike rates in January because of the risk that Omicron restrictions would batter the economy at least temporarily. If we see a reversal in these declines in February, rate hikes could well commence. The Bank of Canada’s next policy-decision date is March 2. But we won’t see the Labour Force Survey for February until March 11. This could postpone lift-off by the BoC until the next meeting on April 13, when we will have both the February and March employment reports. This would put the first rate hike in April, exactly when the Bank’s forward guidance initially told us the hikes would begin. 

The timing of lift-off is subject to the incoming data. It is troubling that the US employment report, also released today for January, was surprisingly strong, in contrast. To be sure, the US did not impose Canadian-style Omicron restrictions last month, but the Omicron wave did depress US economic activity. It was expected to translate into weak hiring. It didn’t. 467,000 jobs were created in the US, and massive upward revisions suggest a fundamentally very strong US economy. With US companies desperate to hire and the most significant issue being the lack of qualified staff, wages are rising more sharply south of the border.

Canadian employment remains just over 30,000 above pre-pandemic levels, and the country has a strong track record of bouncing back after prior waves of the virus. Yet, today’s jobs numbers suggest a tough start for the Canadian economy in the first quarter. Hours worked — which is closely correlated to output — fell 2.2% in January, and the number of employees who worked less than half their usual hours jumped by 620,000. January also saw the first drop in full-time employment — down 82,700 — since June.

Average hourly wages grew 2.4% (+$0.72) on a year-over-year basis in January, down from 2.7% in November and December 2021 (not seasonally adjusted). The January 2022 year-over-year change was similar to the average annual wage growth of 2.5% observed in the five years from 2015 to 2019.

The concentration of January 2022 employment losses in lower-wage industries did not significantly impact year-over-year wage change, partly because employment in these industries experienced similar losses in January 2021 as a result of the third wave of COVID-19.

Bottom Line 

There remains uncertainty regarding when (not if) the Bank of Canada will begin to renormalize interest rates. Canadian swaps trading suggests markets are still expecting a hike on March 2, with five more hikes over the next year. Potential homebuyers are certainly anxious to get in under the wire.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
drsherrycooper@dominionlending.ca

Bank of Canada Holds Rates Steady Again

General Michelle Foster 26 Jan

It came as a surprise to many who were forecasting a 0.25% rate increase, but the Bank of Canada chose to maintain the overnight rate at 0.25%. What does this mean for your mortgage? Contact me today to discuss how your mortgage could be affected and what your options are!

Bank Will Hike Rates At Next Meeting
While markets were 70% certain the Bank would hike their overnight target rate today, we remained of the view that the Governing Council would hold off until March or April because of the slowdown in first-quarter growth arising from the Omicron restrictions. The Bank announced today that economic slack in the economy had been absorbed more rapidly than expected in late October when they last met. “Employment is above pre-pandemic levels, businesses are having a hard time filling job openings, and wage increases are picking up. Unevenness across sectors remains, the Governing Council judges the economy is now operating close to its full capacity.” Consequently, the Bank now believes that emergency measures arising from the pandemic are no longer necessary. They clearly state that a rising path for interest rates will be required to moderate domestic spending growth and bring inflation back to target. Being mindful that the increasing spread of Omicron will dampen spending in the first quarter, they decided to keep the policy rate unchanged today and to signal that rates will rise going forward. “The timing and pace of those increases will be guided by the Bank’s commitment to achieving the 2% inflation target.”Notably, the Bank also suggested that another vital policy measure to reduce demand and thereby control inflation is “quantitative tightening” (Q.T.), reducing the central bank’s holdings of Canadian government bonds on its balance sheet. This selling of bonds also raises interest rates. “The Bank will keep the holdings of Government of Canada bonds on our balance sheet roughly constant at least until we begin to raise the policy interest rate. At that time, we will consider exiting the reinvestment phase and reducing the size of our balance sheet by allowing maturing Government of Canada bonds to roll off. As we have done in the past, before implementing changes to our balance sheet management, we will provide more information on our plans.”The Bank of Canada is very concerned about maintaining its hard-won inflation-fighting credibility. Remember that while Canadian inflation is at a 30-year high–as it is in the rest of the world–at 4.8%, Canadian inflation pales compared to the 7.0% rate in the U.S. and 6.8% rate in the U.K. (see chart below). It is also below the pace of the Euro area. The Bank stated that “CPI inflation remains well above the target range and core measures of inflation have edged up since October. Persistent supply constraints are feeding through to a broader range of goods prices and, combined with higher food and energy prices, are expected to keep CPI inflation close to 5% in the first half of 2022. As supply shortages diminish, inflation is expected to decline reasonably quickly to about 3% by the end of this year and gradually ease towards the target over the projection period. Near-term inflation expectations have moved up, but longer-run expectations remain anchored on the 2% target. The Bank will use its monetary policy tools to ensure that higher near-term inflation expectations do not become embedded in ongoing inflation.”
Bottom LineIt surprises me that economists in Canada would expect the Bank to hike interest rates during a Covid lockdown without properly measured signalling beforehand. Bay St’s hysteria about inflation seems to have muddied thinking. The Bank will be taking out the big guns to get inflation under control. Overnight rate hikes begin at the next policy meeting on March 2 and then Quantitative Tightening shortly after that. The downsizing of the Bank’s balance could have even more dramatic effects on the shape of the yield curve, hiking longer-term interest rates. In today’s policy statement and Monetary Policy Report, the Bank emphasized the strength of the housing market and the impact on inflation of the more than 20% rise in Canadian house prices last year. The MPR suggests that housing market activity strengthened again in recent months, led by a rebound in existing home sales.” Low borrowing rates and high disposable incomes continue to contribute to elevated levels of housing activity in the first quarter. At the same time, other factors that support demand, such as population growth, are also now picking up.”Traders continue to bet that the Bank of Canada will hike interest rates by 25 basis points five or six times this year. This would take the overnight rate from 0.25% to 1.5% to 1.75%. It was 1.75% in February of 2020 before the pandemic easing began. Markets also expect two more rate hikes in 2023, taking the overnight rate to 2.25%. Volatility in financial markets has surged this year. The FOMC, the US policy-making body, announces its decision at 2 PM ET today. No rate hike is expected yet, but the Fed will undoubtedly commit to serious rate hikes and balance sheet contraction in the coming months.
 

Written by:

Dr. Sherry CooperChief Economist, Dominion Lending Centresdrsherrycooper@dominionlending.ca

Bank of Canada Holds Rates Steady – June 9 2021

General Michelle Foster 9 Jun

Bank of Canada Holds Rates and QE Steady–Asserting That Both the Upside in Inflation and the Downside in GDP is Temporary
The Bank of Canada left the benchmark overnight policy rate unchanged at 0.25% and maintained its current pace of GoC bond purchases at its current pace. The Governing Council renewed its pledge to refrain from raising rates until the damage from the pandemic is fully repaired. The $3 billion weekly pace of bond-buying–known as quantitative easing–will decline as the recovery proceeds. In April, at their last meeting, the Bank reduced the pace of GoC bond buying from $4 billion to $3 billion per week. The central bank was among the first from advanced economies to shift to a less expansionary policy in April when it accelerated the timetable for a possible interest-rate increase and pared back its bond purchases.

The Bank’s view regarding the domestic economy appears to be little changed despite the April Monetary Policy Report (MPR) overestimating Q1 GDP growth by 1.4 percentage points. Indeed, today’s Policy Statement notes that Q1 GDP growth was “a robust 5.6 percent” and that the details of the report point to “rising confidence and resilient demand.” Concerning Q2, the third wave lockdowns are “dampening economic activity…largely as anticipated.” Note that the April MPR projected 3.5% growth in Q2 GDP, while the consensus forecast currently sits at 0% for Q2, with downside risk.

The Bank also noted that “Recent jobs data show that workers in contact-sensitive sectors have once again been most affected. The employment rate remains well below its pre-pandemic level, with low-wage workers, youth and women continuing to bear the brunt of job losses.” The chart below shows that the labour market is still below the Bank’s target for a full recovery.

Bank of Canada Upbeat Over the Medium Term

“With vaccinations proceeding at a faster pace, and provincial containment restrictions on an easing path over the summer, the Canadian economy is expected to rebound strongly, led by consumer spending. Housing market activity is expected to moderate but remain elevated.”

On the inflation front, there were no surprises. The Statement says that inflation has risen to the top of the 1-3% control range due to base effects and gasoline prices. The rise in the core measures is blamed on temporary factors as well. The Bank anticipates headline inflation will stay around 3% through the summer before pulling back later in the year.On the cautious side, the BoC highlights that the labour market still has a way to go before healing. There’s also uncertainty surrounding COVID variants.

The concluding paragraph didn’t change much. It reiterates that there “remains considerable excess capacity” and that policy rates will stay at the lower bound until “economic slack is absorbed,” which the April MPR said was in 2022H2. Concerning further tapering, the “assessment of the strength and durability of the recovery” will guide that decision.

The C$ barely garnered a mention yet again, with the Statement noting the recent gains and accompanying rise in commodity prices. The market might view the lack of concern here as a green light for further strength.

Bottom Line

The Bank of Canada is looking through “transitory” ups in inflation and downs in GDP. With vaccination rates continuing to ramp up significantly, and provinces beginning a gradual reopening process, the economy will rebound substantially beginning in June.

Indeed, with the near-term growth outlook increasingly bright, concerns have shifted to rising production input prices and the prospect for a sharp recovery in consumer demand to stoke inflation pressures. For now, the BoC is positing that near-term increases in consumer price growth rates will prove ‘transitory.’ But there have also been signs of harder-to-dismiss firming in most measures of underlying price growth gauges, including the BoC’s own preferred core measures edging up towards or above the 2% inflation target.

July’s meeting will likely be a bit more interesting with the Bank issuing more details in another Monetary Policy Report. We don’t see any need for dramatic forecast revisions at this stage, and the BoC’s guidance that rates might have to start increasing in the second half of next year remains appropriate. It looks like the main question will be around further tapering of the BoC’s asset purchases. The BoC didn’t signal an imminent taper (we didn’t think it would) but said decisions regarding the pace of purchases would be guided by its assessment of the strength and durability of the recovery. If incoming data aligns with the BoC’s forecasts, we could see it reduce weekly bond-buying again in July to $2 billion per week from $3 billion. If not, September might serve as a backup as the bank seeks to prevent its footprint in the bond market (nearly 44% at the end of May) from becoming too large while at the same time setting itself up to shift QE to reinvestment only well in advance of the first interest rate hike.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
drcooper@dominionlending.ca

Bank of Canada Holds Rates and Bond-Buying Steady

General Michelle Foster 10 Mar

Much has changed since the Bank of Canada’s last decision on January 20. While the second pandemic wave was raging, new lockdowns were implemented in late 2020, and there were fears that the economy, in consequence, was likely to grow at a 4.8% annual rate in Q4 and contract in Q1. Instead, the lockdowns were less disruptive than feared, as Q4 growth came in at a surprisingly strong 9.6% annual rate–double the pace expected by the Bank.

Rather than a contraction in  Q1 this year, Statistics Canada’s flash estimate for January growth was 0.5% (not annualized). Strength in January came from housing, resources and government spending, and the mild weather likely helped. In today’s decision statement, the central bank acknowledged that “the economy is proving to be more resilient than anticipated to the second wave of the virus and the associated containment measures.”  The BoC now expects the economy to grow in the first quarter. “Consumers and businesses are adapting to containment measures, and housing market activity has been much stronger than expected. Improving foreign demand and higher commodity prices have also brightened the prospects for exports and business investment.”

A massive $1.9 trillion stimulus plan in the US is also about to turbocharge Canada’s largest trading partner’s economy, which will be a huge boon to the global economy and explains why commodity prices and bond yields have risen substantially in recent months. The Canadian dollar has been relatively stable against the US dollar but has appreciated against most other currencies.

Economists now expect Canada to expand at a 5.5% pace this year versus a 4% projection by the Bank of Canada in January. Going into today’s meeting, no one expected the Bank to raise the overnight policy rate, but markets were pricing in more than a 50% chance of an increase by this time next year, up from about 25% odds in January.

On the other hand, the BoC continued to emphasize the risks to the outlook and the huge degree of slack in the economy. “The labour market is a long way from recovery, with employment still well below pre-COVID levels. Low-wage workers, young people and women have borne the brunt of the job losses. The spread of more transmissible variants of the virus poses the largest downside risk to activity, as localized outbreaks and restrictions could restrain growth and add choppiness to the recovery.”

The Bank also attributed the recent rise in inflation was due to temporary factors. One year ago, many prices fell with the onslaught of the pandemic, so that year-over-year comparisons will rise for a while because of these base-year effects combined with higher gasoline prices pushed up by the recent run-up in oil prices. The Governing Council expects CPI inflation to moderate as these effects dissipate and excess capacity continues to exert downward pressure.

According to the policy statement, “While economic prospects have improved, the Governing Council judges that the recovery continues to require extraordinary monetary policy support. We remain committed to holding the policy interest rate at the effective lower bound until economic slack is absorbed so that the 2% inflation target is sustainably achieved. In the Bank’s January projection, this does not happen until 2023.” The Bank will continue its QE program to reinforce this commitment and keep interest rates low across the yield curve until the recovery is well underway.  As the Governing Council continues to gain confidence in the recovery’s strength, the pace of net purchases of Government of Canada bonds will be adjusted as required. The central bank will “continue to provide the appropriate monetary policy stimulus to support the recovery and achieve the inflation objective.”
Bottom Line

The Bank gave no indication when it might start to taper its bond-buying. The next decision date is on April 21, when a full economic forecast will be released in the April Monetary Policy Report. Governor Macklem is more dovish than many had expected and will err on the side of caution. When the central bank starts tapering its asset purchases, it will be the equivalent of easing off the accelerator rather than applying the brakes. The Bank of Canada has been buying a minimum of $4 billion in federal government bonds each week to help keep borrowing costs low. That pace may no longer be warranted with an outlook that appears to show the economy absorbing all excess slack by next year, ahead of the Bank of Canada’s 2023 timeline for closing the so-called output gap.

Longer-Term Yields are Rising Despite Central Bank Inaction

General Michelle Foster 23 Feb

While central banks hold overnight rates at record lows, anchoring short-term interest rates and the prime rate, mid-to-long-term government yields have been rising since early this month. As the chart below shows, the 5-year Government of Canada bond, upon which mortgage rates are generally tethered, are currently at 0.69%, up 27 basis points since January 29th. This is the highest 5-year yield since late-March 2020.  Canadian bond yields have increased more than in the US, perhaps due to the surge in commodity prices, most notably oil, which has climbed 16.9% in just the past month, taking the year-to-date gain to 27%.

Growing government debt arising from fiscal measures to cushion the blow of the pandemic and stimulate the economy has set the stage for higher government bond yields in much of the developed world.

Inflation concerns are mounting. In a rare move, yesterday Statistics Canada revised up its estimate of core inflation–unveiled only five days ago–from 1.5% to 1.77%. The result is an inflation picture that is more elevated than reported last week, at a time when investors are becoming more worried about global price pressures. The core CPI is the Bank of Canada’s preferred measure of underlying inflation, and it has rattled markets that it now appears to be running at nearly a 1.8% year-over-year pace.

While inflation is expected to accelerate in the coming months on higher energy costs, policymakers led by Governor Tiff Macklem see little immediate threat from rising prices, even with extraordinary levels of stimulus coursing through the economy. Despite a temporary pickup early this year, the Bank of Canada doesn’t anticipate inflation will sustainably return to its 2% target until 2023. Macklem speaks in Calgary later today, and he is likely to suggest that the Canadian economy is still far from an inflationary threshold.

Keep in mind that Canada’s economy has considerable slack with unemployment rising in recent months and the lockdown continuing for at least a couple more weeks in the GTA. Moreover, Canada has fallen far beyond other countries in the vaccine rollout.

The biggest vaccination campaign in history is currently underway. More than 209 million doses have been administered across 92 countries, according to data collected by Bloomberg News. The latest pace was roughly 6.24 million doses a day. Israel has administered more than 82 doses of vaccine per 100 people, the UK is at 27.5, and the US is at 19.3. Canada, on the other hand, has administered only 4.1 doses per 100 people, now ranking 43rd in the world (see chart below).

This slow start to the rollout likely portends a longer period of economic underperformance.

Bottom Line

Some upward pressure on fixed mortgage rates might be in store, although the Big Five Banks have yet to respond, and the qualifying rate remains at 4.79%, well above contract rates. Without any prospect of near-term tightening by the Bank of Canada, variable rate mortgage rates–typically tied to the prime rate–will remain stable. But mortgage rates have moved up at some of the non-bank lenders. No question, the economy’s trajectory and interest rates will be linked to the return to the ‘new normal’ following the pandemic. Good news on the pandemic front inevitably means higher mortgage rates in 2022-23–if not sooner.Blog post by Sherry Cooper