On the cusp of rate cuts

A recent Reuters poll of reputable U.S. economists has a majority of them predicting that the Fed will begin cutting rates in June. Those polled believe the central bank is waiting on additional data outlining the state of inflation and whether it’s fallen to the 2% target. Rate cuts by the Fed would set the tone for the BOC, and the world.

In his recent Congress testimony, Fed Chair Jerome Powell hinted at potential policy easing later this year. Despite the speculation of an early rate cut, persistent inflation and a resilient job market may delay the decision. Financial markets now align with Fed officials, anticipating the first rate reduction in June. According to a recent Reuters survey, 72 out of 108 economists predict a rate cut in June, reflecting a shift from previous expectations. Concerns about a delayed rate cut outweigh those about an earlier one, as 85% of respondents believe the risk lies in a later-than-expected cut.

The Fed emphasizes the need for confidence in inflation before adjusting its policy stance. While PCE inflation fell to 2.4% in January from its peak in June 2022, policymakers await sustained movement towards the 2% target. Despite projections of 2.2% PCE inflation for 2024, other measures like CPI and core CPI remain above target until at least 2026.

The U.S. economy, projected to grow at an average rate of 2.1% this year, exceeds the non-inflationary growth rate of 1.8%, suggesting a measured approach to rate cuts. While opinions vary on the magnitude of rate cuts, about 50% of respondents foresee three-quarters of a percentage point or less. A majority believes any changes to the dot plot projection would likely indicate fewer cuts this year.

U.S. economy stable, for now:

Jamie Dimon recently acknowledged the possibility of a recession in the U.S., cautioning against prematurely dismissing the idea, yet suggesting that the Federal Reserve should exercise patience before making any decisions to cut interest rates. Speaking at the Australian Financial Review Business Summit in Sydney, Dimon expressed a more reserved outlook compared to his recent optimistic stance on global markets.

Dimon highlighted that the world is currently pricing in a soft landing, estimating the probability at 70-80%. However, he countered this consensus by stating that the likelihood of a soft landing within the next year or two is only half of that, with the worst-case scenario being stagflation. The JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO pointed out that economic indicators have been significantly affected by the ongoing impact of Covid-19, advising the Federal Reserve to exercise caution and wait for clearer signals before considering a reduction in interest rates.

While recognizing the current robust state of the U.S. economy, characterized as “kind of booming,” Dimon maintained that the risk of a recession persists. He emphasized the distortions caused by the pandemic, urging the Fed to exercise prudence in interpreting economic data. According to Dimon, unemployment in the United States is currently at a very low level, and wages continue to rise, contributing to the overall strength of the economy.

Dimon’s comments reflect a more nuanced perspective compared to his earlier optimistic outlook, particularly in light of his previous warnings about an impending economic “hurricane” in 2022. Despite the uncertainties surrounding the economic landscape, he urged the Federal Reserve to carefully consider the potential impact on its credibility before hastily implementing interest rate cuts.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s recent statements indicate that the central bank is approaching the confidence needed to initiate interest rate reductions. Powell emphasized the importance of sustained inflation at 2%, signaling a cautious yet optimistic stance. Meanwhile, Dimon also commented on the upcoming U.S. election, expressing uncertainty about the potential winner between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, describing the situation as a nerve-wracking “circus.” Despite acknowledging Trump as an “amazing political figure,” Dimon called for more thoughtfulness and rationality, particularly in foreign policy discussions.

Jamie Dimon’s latest remarks underscore a more measured and cautious perspective on the economic landscape, urging prudence from the Federal Reserve in the face of potential recessionary risks and emphasizing the need for clear signals before considering any adjustments to interest rates.

In summary, the Fed’s cautious stance reflects a data-dependent approach, with economists anticipating a gradual cutting cycle in June as confidence in inflation builds. The consensus emphasizes the importance of a balanced and forward-looking strategy to navigate economic uncertainties.

Build 1.5 million new homes in the next decade, says Ontario’s housing task force

55 recommendations were provided to the provincial government on Feb. 8th by the Housing Affordability Task Force. The provincial government convened the body in response to the tripling in average house costs for families over the last 10 years. The Chair of the task force was Jake Lawrence, a senior Scotiabank executive, who sees the real estate situation as a serious crisis that demands “immediate and sweeping” provincial reform. The province will apparently respond with legislation as early as the coming weeks when the House resumes in response to the dire tone of the report.

 

The biggest target of the report’s findings? The way in which housing is approved. “The way housing is approved and built was designed for a different era. The balance has swung too far in favour of lengthy consultations, bureaucratic red tape and costly appeals.” Media reports have already repeatedly attacked the MZO (Minister’s Zoning Order) route to development approvals that the Ford Government has used over the last three years. A dilution in the public consultation process that Minister’s Zoning Orders create has been a source of serious media ridicule. The task force report is now basically backing up the province with its penchant for approvals speediness – citing the ‘crisis’ like nature of the market. The CBC is already framing the document as a precursor to even further erosion of the consultation process.

 

Some of the specific recommendations mentioned in the Task Force’s report are: 

  • Increase density in neighbourhoods zoned exclusively for single-family homes.
  • Repeal municipal policies that focus on preserving a neighbourhood’s character.
  • Set uniform provincial standards for urban design, including building shadows and setbacks.
  • Limit the time spent consulting the public on housing developments.
  • Legislate timelines for development approvals, and if the municipality misses the deadline, the project gets an automatic green light.

Some of the key quotes in the report are hard hitting and very telling:

  • “The province must set an ambitious and bold goal to build 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years.”
  • “A shortage of land isn’t the cause of the problem, land is available, both inside the existing built-up areas and on undeveloped land outside greenbelts. We need to make better use of land.”
  • “NIMBYism is a large and constant obstacle to providing housing everywhere,” the report says. “We cannot allow opposition and politicization of individual housing projects to prevent us from meeting the needs of all Ontarians.”

We strongly encourage our readers to take a look at this landmark 33 page report, as the Legislation it could and likely will inspire will have a massive impact on the market: https://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/21199912/ont-housing-report.pdf

Big Housing Projects and the Benefits of Rapid Transit

In the last four decades, major infrastructure projects in Toronto and the GTA have been few and far between. We have fallen behind. The last two major subway lines that were built benefited low density inner suburbs in North York and Vaughan.While these areas are undergoing building booms and seeing density rise, the lack of a completed downtown relief line is overwhelming Toronto’s subway system. Nonetheless, the Eglinton Crosstown is a project nearing completion that is looked upon more favourably by transit and infrastructure experts. 

The Crosstown will provide top notch transit service to the city’s dense and heavily populated midtown area. One major benefit of this massive project is the development and rejuvenation of housing where it is needed most. One such project has received favourable attention; the Crosstown planned community by Aspen Ridge on the corner of Eglinton and Don Mills Rd., just north of the Ontario Science Centre. Right on the Crosstown subway line, this housing project will feature almost a dozen high-rises, townhomes, and low rise buildings. It will also feature considerable green space, restaurants, and rec facilities. This kind of broad, dense, and all-in-one is made possible by the construction of major public transit projects.

With recent transit announcements showcasing the desire to pour tens of billions of added dollars into public transit lines in Toronto, projects like the Crosstown community will become more frequent. The 60 acres of the Crosstown community previously consisted of low rise office and warehouse buildings, largely owned by the international tech company Celestica. 

The First Conservative Ontario Budget in 15 years

This week, the new Ford PC government released its first budget. The document outlines a new vision for the province and sets of the government’s fiscal strategy for the next few years. Contrary to the views of many, the budget did not implement massive cuts. Healthcare and education spending will be increasingly modestly, spending for most other areas will either rise extremely modestly and will be effectively frozen over the next few years. When adjusted for inflation, most departments and Ministries will see their budgets cut.

 

The province’s headline announcement is transit related. Premier Ford wants to see a number of new public transit lines built, including a 3-stop Scarborough subway, a subway to Richmond Hill, a downtown relief line from the Science Centre to Queen St .East westward to Ontario Place, a transit line along Sheppard Ave. East, and a subway across central Etobicoke. The province is setting aside over $11 billion to the construction of these lines and expects the federal government and the regional municipalities involved to foot the rest of the project $28 billion cost of these projects. If completed, these lines will have enormous implications for densification, land values, traffic, and economic growth. But massive public transit plans have been announced by provincial governments of all political stripes repeatedly over the last 40 years, and few projects have actually been completed.

There were few mentions of housing, housing affordability, or real estate; these announcements are likely to come later given recent reviews of the industry. There will be a new child tax credit for parents which is quite substantive. Overall, the budget is transit focused and seeks to maintain spending at levels where they are presently.

This Year’s Federal Budget

Budget 2019 is the final Liberal budget before this year’s election. It outlined billions of dollars in new spending to please key Constituencies across the country. The Federal government has seen its revenues rise by over $10 billion from a strong and growing economy and wasted no time in maintaining its deficit figures and boosting outlays.

The budget does, however, deliver major initiatives designed to address housing anxieties, this blog post will discuss those measures.

First time home-buyer incentive program

The Feds have announced a $1.25 billion first time home buyer incentive program. Households with less than $120,000 in income will be able to receive up to 10% of a home’s down payment interest free from the CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation). This amount of money is expected to be repaid on the eventual sale of the home. For a $400K condo, this equates to $40K in government money for a down payment. In other words, the government will provide you with tens of thousands of dollars which will be taken away from the overall equity of the home. This will also lower monthly mortgage payments by roughly $200 a month.

 

RRSP usage

The budget also boost the amount of money a first-time buyer can withdraw from his or her RRSP for a home purchase. Individuals can withdraw up to $35,000, and a couple can withdraw $70,000 for their home purchase. This was the first time this amount was amended in over 10 years. The Feds are aiming to get both the RRSP increase and incentive program initiated and out the door by September.

 

New housing builds

The Feds also announced the construction of over 40,000 new housing units in low-supply areas to be built over the next decade. These units will be rental. This announcement builds on past promises to build more housing and honours the government’s election promise of adding housing stock.

 

Mixed Real Estate Conditions and a Potential BOC Rate Cut

 

The Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board released rough real estate stats earlier this week. Reports showed that year-over-year Feb. residential home sales fell over 30%. This represents the worst Feb. sales total since 1985, over 40% below the last decade’s average.

Detached homes lasted roughly 55 days on the market before sale, while townhouses averaged 39 days and apartments and condos at 40. Prices also fell by over 6% year-over-year, while at the same time, inventories are piling up. Total listings rose by over 48% year-over-year to almost 11,600.

In Toronto, prices rose by 1.6% while listings fell 6.2%, sales fell by 2.4%. Canada’s banks are also feeling the heat of an inconsistent real estate market. Credit losses rose by double digits at the big 5. The same credit losses were seen in the Australian banking and real estate markets as well and in other countries dependent on real estate.

Economic stats have dipped into such negative territory so quickly that news is spreading of the possibility that the BOC may cut rates soon. Tembo has consistently made the point that the BOC will stick to an aggressive and consistent rate hike trajectory until economic conditions change. While most experts believe that rates will stay put, the potential for a cut will grow if economic conditions continue to worsen. As we previously reported, the economic recently contracted by a very narrow margin.

On an additional note, the City of Toronto will convene on Thursday, March 7th to pass its 2019 budget. The budget outlines a massive drop in land transfer tax revenues because of stalling real estate conditions. The City has become addicted to the previously perpetually rising land transfer tax which financed large increases in city spending. That era has come to a close.

We Are Barely Into 2019 And The Stock Market Is Already Making Some Wild Moves

2018 ended with significant stock market turbulence around the world, especially in New York and Asia. Tembo made note of this in its final 2018 blogs and newsletter (you can sign up here). As we mentioned, significant drops in the DOW were reversed by announcements that major pension funds were pouring over $64 billion into stock buys, moving away from their positions on low yield bonds. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Investor Letters Causes Stock Market Jitters

Even as this news drove up confidence, the market tumbled again when Apple Co. CEO Tim Cook released a brisk letter to shareholders that stunned Wall Street and which the media called a ‘bombshell.’ The letter outlined many positive overall trends for the firm but admitted its revenues and profits were to be negatively affected by ongoing economic disruption. Sales of new Iphone devices, especially in Greater China, did not meet expectations, and gross revenue would be over 5% lower than forecast.

Read: Letter from Tim Cook to Apple Investors

Apple’s reputation as a practically indestructible giant with an unrivalled brand and relentlessly improving financial performance was hurt badly by the letter. The company’s share price fell by 10%, equivalent to over $70 billion. As so many market participants, analysts, and traders have never experienced a bear market from a low interest rate boom that has lasted a decade, the tough news was not taken well. Markets negatively reacted to the news, with the letter solidifying growing perceptions that the global economy is undergoing significant structural changes.

Fed Tries To Calm Markets

This week some good data restored confidence. Another big boost to the markets came from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who commented that his central bank’s policy was ‘flexible’, essentially calming the market by saying the Fed would act if further market drops occurred. It’s Tembo’s belief that the Fed will cut rates quickly and print money to buy stocks if the stock or asset (real estate) market’s fell harshly – for better, or for worse. 

Canadians Are Experience Record Low Unemployment Rates Across The Nation

November was a dynamite month for job creation, with a record 94,000 jobs created, pushing the unemployment rate lower to 5.6%.

This is the lowest level of unemployment since records began in the mid 70s. Just under 90 thousands of the jobs are full time, and more than 78 thousand were created in the private sector – both are positive elements of the job growth. The strongest job gains were in Quebec and Alberta, with 14,000 new construction jobs created, 27,000 in ‘goods production’, and the rest in services, especially in professional, scientific, and technical services. 
While experts hailed the news as a big and very positive surprise, they also highlighted the fact that wage increases are beginning to lose momentum and to decline. The strength of the economy is boosting pressure on inflation, with the rate jumping to 2.4%. In its latest announcement, the Bank of Economy decided not to increase rates, but will likely adjust its approach in the new year if economic temperatures remain hot. While the economy is strong, rising interest rates and government intervention remain as anchors on the still generally healthy real estate market. 
These two factors have resulted in real estate dynamism in Canada’s biggest city lessening to the extent that the City of Toronto is worried it will lose up to $100 million in revenue from the land transfer tax. In recent years, the city government has become extremely dependent on the transfer tax to finance spending. Tembo will keep a close eye on economic indicators in the new year to see if these record trends continue. 
 

Rental Prices Are Soaring In Canada’s Biggest City

 

 Apart from recent increases in interest rates by the Bank of Canada which Tembo predicted in our last blog, a big piece of recent real estate news deals with the rental market in Toronto, which is going through important changes which this blog post will outline.

Prices are increasing significantly

The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) just announced that average monthly rental costs for a one-bedroom condo in Toronto hit just under $2,000.00, up 10% from last year. Two-bedroom condos come in at just over $2,600.00 a month on average. Interest rates going up will make borrowing more expensive for first time buyers and will gradually force developers to decrease costs and improve profitability. Affordability will be even less of a concern than it is now.

Rental vacancies at record lows

            Low supply of rental units is fuel to the fire of higher and higher prices. The rental vacancy rate in Toronto is around 1%. Many people are being systemically priced out of the city because there are too few affordable rental units left. Condo apartments are out there but getting one is difficult, competitive, and required a solid income.

Government measures aren’t helping

The Ontario Fair Housing Plan was supposed to bring improve the affordable housing situation by protecting existing tenants in the city, instead rental control is proving to hurt supply because developers do not want to build now highly regulated and protected rentals that are not as profitable in the short to medium term as major condo construction is.

Condo market is hot, and supply is insufficient

New legislation and controls from all levels of government will add pressure to developers and will impact supply. Demand remains strong because of a stable economy and higher immigration. All of these factors will continue to affect the supply constraints within the market considerably in a way that adds to the problems.

Your Dream Home Wish List: Needs vs. Wants

With the holidays fast approaching, perspective home buyers are writing their dream home wish lists, just as their kids develop their wish lists for Santa. When it comes to buying real estate in Toronto, not all home buyers are able to afford, nor do they want to carry the mortgage on the home that “has it all”. In these cases, cosmetic and/or stylistic dreams are compromised in order to find the best and most suitable home for you and your family. What compromises should you be looking to make? We’ve provided a short list of some of common misconceptions and believed “necessities” for you to cross off your list.

“I need to live in a detached home” – When purchasing a home, especially when it comes to first time home buyers or those looking to expand with their growing family, a detached home sometimes seems like the only way to go. However, Toronto offers many other similarly suitable options, such as semidetached homes, which on average sell for $100,000.00 less than a fully detached home. Keeping your search open to stylistic changes such as these can mean more money for renovations or upgrades in the future, or for more savings long term.

“We need more space” – Do you really? Although having an extra bedroom, or a second living room does seem like a great addition to a home, what do you plan on using it for? Could you use another room for dual purposes, or convert a shed/garage/attic into your extra space?  By imagining the purpose behind these wish list items, you are able to understand if it’s truly something you need, or just a nice-to-have you could live without. Another bonus, less space = less cleaning.

“The house should be fully upgraded and finished” – This decision can be a tricky one, as buying older homes sometimes means that many of the aesthetic finishes throughout are old or outdated. However, if location, style, and size are higher priorities on your list, keep in mind that upgrades and new finishes can be changed with time. By giving yourself a home that needs a little more TLC, you’re opening yourself up to the ability to stay within budget, renovate as time and funds permit, and giving yourself more control over the final outcome of the home. This sense of control and personal validation once completed is definitely something to consider, especially for those who would initially reject an older or outdated home.

Have you sold or are in the process of selling your home, and now can use an advance on your equity before closing day, perhaps you need money for your new purchase deposit? Or to fund your renovations before sale?  Tembo Financial can help!  Tembo offers this unique service to homeowners in Ontario and the GTA.  You could receive your money in as little as 48 hours with no credit check and no appraisal* for expenses that matter to you.  Don’t wait, start today!

*Subject to qualification.