As Economy Slows, Bank Of Canada Holds Off On Interest Rate Increase

Instead of raising rates again the BOC (Bank of Canada) decided to hold off. With oil prices still low and the national economy losing the consumption boost of the holidays, the bank decided to give the economy a breather. Rates remain at 1.75%, with inflation having fallen to 1.7%, under the BOC’s benchmark of 2%. 

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz

The BOC’s decision mirrors that of the Fed in the U.S., where Chairman Jerome Powell recently outlined that the U.S. Central Bank was ‘flexible’ and would also ease off on money tightening given recent stock market fluctuations. The BOC pause flies in the face of the past consistency of its rate rises. It’s also likely that there is growing pressure on the BOC from a wide variety of market sources, especially given recent negative real estate statistics.

Keep in mind that this is an election year in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Politicians despise higher rates for obvious reasons. The BOC would be wise to include political considerations into its decision making, and stretching out the rate rise schedule would be helpful to Prime Minister Trudeau.
Overall, the pause will be beneficial to the real estate sector, especially given recent difficulties and poor stats. Political efforts to cool the market could easily shift to a desire to cushion the sector and strengthen it. Lower oil prices and weaker consumption will also reduce inflation, further pressuring the BOC to hold off on rate rises. To facilitate economic stimulus in the event of a hypothetical future recession, the BOC would ideally need to quickly cut rates by roughly 4%. This is the likely target long term. 

On Oil Prices And A Cautious Bank Of Canada

2018 will end without an increase in interest rates. The Bank of Canada (BOC) announced on Wed. Dec. 5th that its benchmark rate of 1.75% would hold steady. The enthusiasm and confidence the BOC previously expressed about the overall state of the economy was gone in its most recent announcement.

Alberta crude oil

The continuing collapse in oil prices, record high mortgage and consumer debt, and slowing economic growth were the key factors the BOC cited as dead weights to the economy. In response to the lack of rate tightening, the loonie fell to stabilize to 75 cents. The BOC is especially pessimistic of the long term prospects of Canada’s energy sector.
The news will come as a sign of relief to the real estate sector and will result in a pause in the general trajectory of higher mortgage and interest rates seen over the last few months. Mixed real estate data underpins the need for more caution from the Bank. The fall in the exchange rate will also benefit manufacturers, especially those in southern Ontario and parts of Quebec. While static rates will help Western Canadian consumers and businesses, their pain is significant and cries for assistance and greater government intervention are being made by Alberta and Saskatchewan Premiers Rachel Notley and Scott Moe. 
Canadian crude oil is being priced at rates as low as $14 a barrel – even as U.S. crude has rarely ever sells for less than $50 a barrel. With existing Canadian pipelines at full capacity and oil shipped by train overloading rail networks, there is essentially no room to maneuver for exporters who can’t get their product to market efficiently. The Federal government’s plan to expand pipeline networks to B.C.’s coast have failed due to legal challenges and resistance from apprehensive and environmentally conscious First Nations groups. Pipelines planned to the east coast (Energy East) face considerable regulatory, financial, political, and social hurdles. The failure to properly export Canadian oil has been a recurring strategic economic challenge for many decades. 
Oil’s fundamental importance to the Canadian economy was highlighted in the value of the exchange rate from 2010 to late 2014, when Canadian oil sold for $80-100 a barrel. In those years, the Canadian dollar approached or met U.S. dollar parity – fuelling a boom in cross border shopping, and strong domestic and corporate leveraging. How times have changed.

Bank of Canada’s Huge Announcement On Mortgage Bonds

On Friday, November 23rd at 10am, the Bank of Canada issued a ‘market notice’ announcement with big implications. For the first time, the Bank stated that it would begin making innovative additions to its balance sheet: the purchase of mortgage bonds, or mortgage backed securities.

The news was not announced in a press conference or a press release, but a sleepy ‘market notice’ at the bottom of the Bank’s media/press page on its website.

So, What Are Mortgage Bonds?

A mortgage bond, or mortgage backed security (MBS), is a financial product that is made up of many mortgages, let’s say 100 for example. These mortgages are usually issued at the same time, at the same mortgage rate, and generate interest (income for the purchaser). Buyers could be Canadian banks, foreign banks, and domestic and international investors. 
Mortgage backed securities were at the heart of the 2007-8 financial crash. The bonds were given the highest credit ratings, (what’s safer than a mortgage/house as an investment?) and were scooped up by clients all over the world. What buyers didn’t know was that many of these mortgages were poorly underwritten, and very risky. When foreclosures started kicking in the bonds went bust, and clients lost tons of money.

Why Is The Bank Of Canada Announcement So Significant? 

By now purchasing these bonds, the Bank of Canada is directly providing a powerful stimulus to the banking system and the real estate market. If Banks can now profitably sell mortgage bonds to the central bank, it is likely that their incentive to further increase mortgage debt will rise. This could have a negative impact of the quality of bank underwriting, and will provide a boon to housing prices by facilitating higher demand.
Tembo will keep an even closer eye on the Bank of Canada, this news signals that simply watching rates is not enough. This added central intervention into market brings more risk to Canada’s housing system. You heard it here first.

October Was A Good Month For GTA Real Estate

Positive numbers marked the overall situation for GTA real estate. Both the detached and semi-detached home and condo markets saw positive figures. Condo prices rose 7.5% and semi-detached home prices were up 6.6%. The average selling price for a home rose past the $700K range where it has languished for roughly to hit $810K, This was the first significant increase in prices in over 3 months. 

The positive sale price increases highlight a recovery that is steadily building momentum. Analysts saw the figures as proof that the perennial forces of supply and demand were returning to their general positions in the GTA market. The supply of homes continues to be a significant factor impacting the market – with recent inventory showing a tightening of listings. The slowdown the market saw exacerbated this issue because many prospective sellers are waiting for prices to increase again before listing their homes.
The condo market continues to show its heft. Impressive price figures and demand has not been shaken by government intervention. Higher interest rates in the medium to long term may damage the health of the condo market but it continues to be seen as a haven for young professionals trying to get into the market affordably. The recovery continues. 

The Fed eases off on its tightening

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell did not signal another rate hike in its most recent announcement this week. The Board was unanimous in its support for the not raising rates. With the U.S. economy absorbing large stimulus through tax cuts, increased government spending, and still very low rates, economic activity and job growth is on the rise. This has strengthened the Fed’s longstanding argument that rates have to be increased.
Caption: U.S. President Donal Trump shaking hands with Fed Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell at the White House
The big opponent to higher rates has been Donald Trump. Irritated at the propensity for these rate increases to dampen economic growth, the President has vocally attacked the Federal Reserve. He has argued that all of its actions have been ‘wrong.’ It’s a possibility that the Fed’s decision to hold off on rate increases could have been prompted by this language and a desire to placate the President, especially given the U.S. mid-term elections.
The results of these mid-terms has been mixed for the President. On the one hand, his party gained Senate seats and tightened up its control of the U.S.’s upper house. On the other hand, the Democrats won back control of the House, albeit not with the momentum many in the media had predicted. Many key gubernatorial races were also won by Republicans, particularly in the key states of Ohio and Florida. The next two years will be tumultuous and difficult, and the partisan divisions in America will only increase.

Are Further Rates Hikes Coming?

Another blog, another rate hike. The BOC (Bank of Canada) announced on Wednesday that its overnight rate would be increased from 1.50 to 1.75%.

Bank of Canada Governor, Stephen Poloz.
This is the fifth increase in rates in the last year and a half. As Tembo has repeatedly mentioned, a stable economy and good stats would lead to the BOC increasing rates – this is the signal they’ve been consistently sending for some time now. Rates are now back to where they were in late 2008, right before the last financial crisis.

Bank Of Canada Plays It Safe

The Bank made several comments and offered rationale for its decision. The conclusion of trade uncertainty with the United States and Mexico with the signing of the USMCA was cited. As was strong economic data (job growth, GDP growth, low unemployment). In the words of experts, with the economy in such decent shape, stimulus in the form of low interest rates is not needed. Increasing rates also serves the goals of policymakers in Ottawa and Toronto who want less credit available to heat the property markets. As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, the Bank is following international counterparts in raising rates. 

What Does This New Hike Rates Mean For You?

We want to make two points in this blog in response to this increase. One, it will result in higher overall borrowing costs and it will make mortgages more expensive. And two, that rates are still extremely low. Even in the medium term, rates will be at historic lows. Please see the attached graphic from the Bank of Canada to see the objective picture of rate movements in the last 11 years. In addition, Tembo recommends its readers prepare their finances for higher borrowing costs.

US Fed Is Eager To Raise Interest Rates

For this week’s blog, Tembo once again turns to one of our favourite topics, interest rates. Important news out of the United States once again requires unpacking for our readers.

US Federal Bank

“Trumponomics”

Under President Trump, the U.S. has pursued a ‘supply-side’ economic strategy. The government has increased spending, especially on the military, has lowered taxes, largely for big businesses and high income earners, and has pursued deregulation. All of these moves have acted as stimulants to the U.S. economy, and have lowered unemployment rates and increased growth.
GDP growth has shot passed 4% and official unemployment statistics are the lowest they’ve been in many decades. While few doubt the economy is being overstimulated, all of this positive news is fueling conservatism at the Federal Reserve. The practice of raising rates and ending the historically unprecedented period of ultra cheap began at the end of the Obama Administration. Now, with inflation beginning to pick up, wages, growing, and the economy considered ‘strong’, the Fed is even more eager to return rates to more historical averages. 

What Will Higher US Interest Rates Means For Canadians?

Fed Reserve Jerome Powell made it clear that the Fed will continue its unpopular push to raise rates with even more enthusiasm, a point that has been lambasted by Trump. What this will mean for Canadian homeowners and consumers in the short term is higher rates, as the Bank of Canada will be under huge pressure to match U.S. interest rate rises. Every Fed rate hike places downward pressure on the dollar and squeezes the purchasing power of Canadian firms and consumers. Tembo will keep a close eye on the Canadian economy and the Bank of Canada’s next moves. 

A Positive August For Real Estate

Numbers reveal a positive August for GTA real estate and welcome figures for an industry that had a relatively cool summer selling season.

 

August real estate

In Toronto, sales increased by 8.5% and prices were up 4.7% from a year ago. The average price for a home is now roughly $764,000 dollars. Although nowhere near early 2017 highs, the market is showing its resilience and demand despite all the battering it received over the past year.

New listings increased by 6% and the overall number of active listings increased by 9%, showing many new sellers joining the market and feeling positive about their capacity to get good prices for their assets. General media sentiment on the figures was positive, with many remarking that the figures show a market that is rebounding, on positive footing, and in good overall shape.

On Interest Rates And The Bank Of Canada

The Bank of Canada maintained its existing rate of 1.50%. There was no increase, which some expected, largely due to uncertainty over a trade deal with the U.S. and the potential implications and affects on the economy of a bad deal.

As Tembo has noted there is a risk of the U.S. placing tariffs on the Ontario economy and Canada’s forced departure from NAFTA. Such an outcome would devastate Ontario’s economy, whose backbone is automobile assembly and its associated spin-off industries and supply chain. Core inflation exceeded the Bank’s target of 2% and is at 3%. 

The Latest Trade Negotiation News With The U.S.

Chrystia Freeland

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, speaking with reporters outside the U.S Trade Representative building in Washington D.C.

The Prime Minister has stated that there will be no NAFTA deal with the U.S. unless Canada’s cultural industries (arts and broadcasting sectors) are protected. The PM is worried U.S. media conglomerates or companies could buy a Canadian newspaper or TV station. In addition the Prime Minister wants a dispute settlement clause included to to “ensure the rules are followed.” President Trump has tweeted that a deal with Canada is not a ‘necessity’ and he has repeatedly warned that he could easily exclude Canada from a deal if tariffs on Canadian dairy and eggs are not eliminated.

Another Rate Hike Is Coming

July’s inflation figures are up to 3%, the biggest monthly increase in over 7 years as prices for gasoline and and air travel increased sharply.

Interest Hike Hike Coming

Bank of Canada Could Increase Rates By Another 0.25%

Tembo has consistently reminded its readers and clients that the Bank of Canada is very mindful of inflation and watches it carefully. The Bank is internationally renowned for keeping inflation in and around its benchmark target of 2%. This sudden spike in inflation is likely to increase pressure on the Bank to raise its rate by another quarter percentage point. 
 
This recent increase in inflation comes at a time when the economy has been growing strongly and the Bank has continued its policy of increasing rates in tandem with Central Banks around the world. Canada’s mortgage banking rates are still very low by historical standards, and will remain low even as they respond to likely rate hikes by the Bank of Canada. On a separate note, real estate figures in Montreal and Toronto are improving and warming up. 

New Construction Heating Up

In addition, the latest CMHC figures show that construction starts (both condo and houses) are increasing across the country, from small municipalities to the City of Toronto. On a final general update on real estate, polling shows that the biggest political issue for Millennials is the affordability of housing, given the astronomically high average prices for real estate in the country – even after recent cooling measures.

Bank of Canada Hikes Rates

The Bank of Canada to increased rates at its decision meeting on Wednesday, July 11th. The central bank increased its key rate to 1.5 per cent from 1.25 per cent.

bank of canada picture

The forces that favoured an increase in the cost of money outweighed those that supported continued loose money policies. The Canadian economy remains in very good shape. Inflation hasn’t reared its ugly head, household consumption is neither increasing recklessly nor falling precipitously. Growth and unemployment figures are very positive. Lack of price growth dynamism in the real estate markets, trade issues with the United States, and high levels of private and public debt are the key structural problems. Weighed against one another, the balance skews toward a rate hike.

Central Banks Around The World Are Adamant.

Central banks have begun and will continue a long term policy plan of ever higher rates, and more scrutiny on international banks and financial institutions. The Bank of Canada is no different. The key facts that most worry senior officials, politicians, and Central Bankers are the enormous levels of household and government debt, particularly mortgage debt. A generation of historically unprecedented record low interest rates has blown up large debt bubbles which elites are now desperate to deflate as carefully as possible.

Rates Hike To Negatively Impact Consumers

The likely hike will no doubt have a negative impact on consumers and on the real estate market. Banks are likely to raise their mortgage rates in response. The debt to disposable income ratio in Canada has hit a record of almost 175%, much higher than in the United States before the start of the Great Recession. A rate hike will be of no help to those looking for high prices for their real estate holdings. Debt to income ratios for the poorest Canadians are especially high. The lowest quintile of earners average a debt ratio of almost 350%. While higher rates will come at a cost, many believe they are absolutely necessary, and few doubt they are avoidable.

 

 

Interest Rate Increase Is Imminent

Interest Rate Increase Is Imminent

higher interest rate sign

Prepare for another increase in interest rates on Jan. 17th, the date of the Bank of Canada’s next monetary policy announcement (decision on rates). It is Tembo’s prediction that the possibility of another hike from 1% to 1.25% is extremely high. While it is possible that the Bank will hold off on a hike until later, given the recent release of some important economic statistics, the likelihood of a hike is sky-high. Economists, bankers, and the media are all anticipating a hike.

interest rate increase

Low unemployment is the likely precursor to a hike

  In December of 2017, the Canadian economy added 79,000 jobs, lowering the country’s unemployment rate to 5.7%, the lowest in over 40 years. Every region of the country added jobs, with most of the growth in Quebec and Alberta. Most of the jobs were full time and private sector, another sound aspect of the increase. More jobs will increase spending and will further add pressure to inflation, which is creeping up, albeit very slowly. The consensus among experts was that the Bank of Canada would wait for the latest employment statistics before making its decision and essentially every economist was amazed at the sheer number of jobs created. The Canadian dollar surged to almost 81 cents on the strong news.

CDN Dollar rate

Job market is booming

The sectors that are seeing the most job creation are services and manufacturing, public sector job growth which was strong in 2017 is beginning to decrease. Across the country, job numbers are growing and there is a growing diversification away from construction and energy related jobs which is a positive sign. January jobs numbers will be interesting as they will reveal if so much of the reduction of unemployment was seasonal due to the holiday season. Either way, higher interest rates will make it more expensive for Canadians to acquire mortgage debt, especially first-time buyers.

unemployment rate