An interest rate hike this summer?

General Angela Calla 28 Jan

Don’t count on it. For the Bank of Canada to raise rates before the middle part of 2011 would be totally inconsistent with its current forecast

David Rosenberg Published on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010

David Rosenberg is chief strategist for Gluskin Sheff + Associates Inc. and a guest columnist for Report on Business

Canadian market watchers will get some good news this week. The predictions for a “blowout” reading on fourth-quarter GDP are already out there and it is likely to be an abnormally strong number. But for anyone who thinks a big number is likely to help lock in a rate hike this summer, I would suggest that is not going to happen. In fact, my view is that the Bank of Canada will not be raising rates until mid-2011 – at the earliest.

This is critical to the outlook for Canadian money market and bond yields since futures have priced in nearly 100 per cent odds of a 25 basis point rate hike this June, and another 25 basis points by September. (A basis point is 1/100th of a percentage point.) The central bank has already told us that its base case is for 2.9 per cent real GDP growth this year and 3.5 per cent next year, with the starting point on the “output gap” being 3.7 per cent (“output gap” is the gap between the actual level of real GDP and where real GDP would be if the economy were at full capacity). Remember that an output gap that big in any given quarter classifies as a 1-in-20 event. Moreover, baselining these expected growth rates against the latest estimates of potential growth puts the output gap at a smaller level of 1.55 per cent this year, narrowing further to 0.25 per cent in 2011.

The history of the Bank of Canada is such that – outside of when it had to defend the Canadian dollar – it typically does not embark on its tightening phase until the output gap is close to closing. Even during the aggressive John Crow era, the bank’s modus operandi was to time the first rate hike just as spare capacity was being eliminated, and not much before. On average, the first central bank rate hike following a recession takes place one quarter before the output gap closes (there is still a gap, but it is small at 20 basis points). If such a strategy is replicated this time around – and the cause for being on pause longer in the context of a historic deleveraging cycle is certainly quite strong – then the very earliest the bank will move is the second quarter of 2011.

Under this scenario, based on some back-of-the envelope calculations I just did, the unemployment rate at no time declines below 7.5 per cent through to the end of 2011. The peak in the jobless rate was 8.7 per cent in August, 2009. Going back to prior recessions, the central bank does not begin to tighten rates until the jobless rate is down an average of 150 basis points with a range of 130 basis points to 170 basis points.

Unless the bank wants to be pre-emptive – highly unlikely when it acknowledges in its economic outlook last week that “the recovery continues to depend on exceptional monetary and fiscal stimulus” and that “the overall risks to its inflation projection are tilted slightly to the downside” – then to raise rates before the middle part of 2011 would be totally inconsistent with its current forecast. More to the point, while bored Bay Street economists analyze every word to see if the bank is more or less “hawkish” than in its previous outlook, what is important for investors is to assess the bank forecast and decide what it means for the degree of excess capacity in the economy and what that implies for the future inflation rate.

The bottom line is that even with the fragile recovery, the bank sees more downside than upside risk to its inflation projection, and, to reiterate, for it to start tightening policy until the jobless rate falls below 7.5 per cent would be a break from past post-recession actions.

And whatever future “policy tightening” is needed could also come via the overextended loonie, limiting any need for an interest rate adjustment in the time horizon that the markets have discounted. This is a source of debate on Bay Street, but the bank is still sensitive to the growth-dampening impact of an exchange rate too firm for its own good. To wit: “The persistent strength of the Canadian dollar and the low absolute level of U.S. demand continue to act as significant drags on economic activity in Canada,” the bank says.

In a nutshell, the Canadian market is already braced for 50 basis points of tightening from the Bank of Canada by September. With that in mind, it is difficult to believe that there is any significant rate risk here; if anything, the surprise will be that the bank is on hold for longer. If that proves to be true, then there is actually more downside than upside potential to Canadian bond yields, particularly at the front end of the coupon curve.

The reason the markets think the bank may pull the trigger is because of this one sentence that shows up in every press statement: “Conditional on the outlook for inflation, the target overnight rate can be expected to remain at its current level until the end of the second quarter of 2010 in order to achieve the inflation target.”

So the central bank has really only given a pledge to keep rates where they are until mid-year. But June is only five months away and so one would have to think that at one of the next three meetings, the Bank is going to have to update this particular sentence or cut it entirely and leave the market without a de facto time commitment. Either way, the moment the bank changes this sentence is the moment the market will put on hold its expectations of a new rate-hiking cycle coming our way.

Until then, homeowners opting for variable rate mortgage financing will likely not have to face the interest rate music.

To hear more about the changes in the mortgage market, tune into The Mortgage Show, with AMP of the Year Angela Calla on CKNW AM980 Saturdays at 7pm

How you can correct an inaccuracy on your credit report

General Angela Calla 26 Jan

If you find an inaccuracy in your credit report you will want to contact Equifax and Transunion at the number below and have a copy of your ID handy with the letters of confirmation of the inaccurancy to forward to them.
Doing this as soon as an inaccuracy is found will help with the improvment of your credit score, which will result in better mortgage options for applicants.
Equifax Canada Inc.
Consumer Relations Department
Box 190 Jean Talon Station, Montreal, Quebec H1S 2Z2
CALL: 1 800 465 7166 between 8:00am and 5:00pm ET

Transunion Canada

  • For residents outside Quebec, please contact us between the hours of 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. ET at 1-800-663-9980
  • Tune into “The Mortgage Show,” with AMP of the Year Angela Calla on CKNW AM980 Saturdays at 7pm for more tips on how you can save money on your mortgage.

    Economic recovery becoming more solidly entrenched, says Bank of Canada

    General Angela Calla 26 Jan


    OTTAWA – Canada’s economy is becoming more solidly entrenched with the private sector beginning to play an increasingly pivotal role in leading the country out of recession, the Bank of Canada said today in its latest policy report.

    In a mildly upbeat assessment of the recovery, the central bank’s quarterly outlook contains some upward revisions for growth in the United States, China, Europe and Japan that should help Canada’s battered exporters and manufacturing sector in the next two years.

    And it says Canada’s economy will grow faster going forward than expected, in part because it got off to such a slow start last summer.

    Overall, the bank appears more optimistic about the sustainability of the recovery that is happening around the world, although it also cautions that risks of a stall remain.

    There is also some upside hope, the bank adds, that conditions may continue to improve better than projected.

    “It is thus possible that the recovery in global demand could be more vigorous than projected, resulting in stronger external demand for Canadian exports,” the bank judges.

    In Canada, it adds: “Economic growth is expected to become more solidly entrenched over the projection period as self-sustaining growth in private demand takes hold.”

    The analysis is broadly similar to what the bank said last October, when it last issued a comprehensive forecast on the economy, but the tone is brighter at the margins and the danger signals less frequent.

    For months, bank governor Mark Carney has been cautioning Canadians not to get overextended in purchasing homes, but there is no such warning this time. In fact, the bank says it expects the housing market to cool this year and next as a result of pent-up demand becoming satiated and relatively high home prices.

    As well, the bank appears more confident that the private sector is ready to take the handoff from governments as the main driver of economic growth.

    The bank says Canada’s reliance on government stimulus spending likely hit its peak at the end of 2009, representing about two per cent of all economic output for the country, and will decline this year.

    By 2011, the private sector will be the sole driver of Canadian growth, the bank said.

    But while Canada’s domestic demand continues to be the key driver of economic growth, the big change from October’s outlook is that prospects are also improving for the country’s battered export and manufacturing sectors.

    “Export volumes are expected to continue to recover over the projection period in response to growing external demand and higher commodity prices. Export growth is projected to be somewhat stronger than was expected last October, owing to a more favourable outlook for the U.S. economy, particularly in the sectors that figure most importantly for Canadian exporters,” the bank says.

    Those volumes would be even greater but for the strong Canadian loonie, it adds.

    Canada’s auto and forest products sectors were particularly hard-hit during the recession, the bank notes, and will benefit most from renewed growth in the U.S. Canadian manufacturers shed about 200,000 jobs last year.

    The central bank now says the U.S. gross domestic product will grow by 2.5 per cent this year, largely as a result of improvement in the financial sector. Three months ago, the bank estimated U.S. growth at a mere 1.8 per cent.

    In Canada, the bank says the economy likely grew by 3.3 per cent in the last three months of 2009. For 2010, the economy will advance by 2.9 per cent, followed by a 3.5 per cent pickup in 2011.

    In retrospect, the bank noted that Canada’s recession, while severe, was not nearly as damaging as it was in other industrialized countries, partly because of Canada’s solid banking system.

    But neither has the recovery been particularly impressive in Canada, starting with a disappointing 0.4 per cent advance in the third quarter of 2009, which the bank attributes to a surprisingly strong influx in imports. The U.S., backed by a weak currency, rebounded more strongly with a 2.2-per-cent increase in the third quarter and a bouncy 4.7-per-cent advance in the fourth quarter of 2009.

    The bank believes Canada will make up for the slow start this year, projecting it will advance stronger than the U.S., Japan and Europe.

    The main engine of global growth remains China, however, which is expected to be back close to double-digit growth this year.

    Home Renovation tax credit will not be extended

    General Angela Calla 25 Jan

    Does my reno qualify for a tax credit?

    Bryant Renovations at a Leslieville home where they’re renovating the bathroom and replacing the flooring of the main floor. Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

    With days until deadline, Canadians scramble to take advantage of the government’s home renovation tax credit

    •  Roma Luciw  Globe and Mail

    With the Jan. 31 deadline just around the corner, anyone who still wants to take advantage of the federal government’s popular home renovation tax credit had better hurry.

    “The most important thing for people to know is that they still have a week to buy and take delivery of materials that they are thinking of using for renovations,” Jamie Golombek, managing director of estate and tax planning with CIBC Private Wealth Management, said in an interview Wednesday.

    Although it is likely too late to get the labour done in time, “anyone thinking of doing anything in their home in the next few months should try to get that material now… otherwise you are really losing out.”

    The home reno tax credit, introduced as a limited-time program in the 2009 federal budget, has proven extremely popular with housing-obsessed Canadians. “Anecdotally, it is the topic of almost every single presentation I give in terms of personal tax. The Canada Revenue Agency has responded to more technical interpretation questions in terms of what qualifies and what does not than any other topic in recent history,” Mr. Golombek added

    “ Anecdotally, it is the topic of almost every single presentation I give in terms of personal tax. ”— CIBC’s Jamie Golombek said of the HRTC

    The CRA estimates that as of last Friday, more than four million Canadians had enquired about the program. From Jan. 2 to 15 alone, 302,501 people visited the CRA website or phoned to ask about the HRTC.

    Timing has played a role in the HRTC’s success, says Mr. Golombek, given that rates for home equity lines of credit are still historically low. “Even if people don’t have the actual cash to do the renos right now, they can borrow the money at very attractive interest rates and get a 15-per-cent non-refundable credit from the government.”

    Here’s how the HRTC works:

    Each family is allowed to claim on their 2009 income tax return a 15-per-cent non-refundable tax credit for eligible renovation expenses made to their dwelling. The credit allows tax payers to get up to $1,350 in tax relief for projects worth between $1,000 and $10,000. The $10,000 spending limit applies to homes, cottages or condos, provided the combined total does not exceed the $1,350 limit.

    To qualify, all of the renos must take place after Jan. 27, 2009 and before Feb. 1, 2010. The supplies and materials must be bought and in your possession before Feb. 1st, 2010 to be eligible. Likewise, any work done by a contractor must be finished by the deadline, which means that signing a contract for the work ahead of the deadline is not sufficient.

    To qualify for the HRTC, renos must be of “an enduring nature and integral to the dwelling.” So putting in a permanent swimming pool or hot tub, a new dock or septic system at the cottage, fixing a retaining wall or doing some landscaping all qualify. Cleaning your carpet, house or eavestrough would not qualify, nor does buying furniture, appliances or electronics.

    Who’s using it?

    Dan Wilson is one many Canadians taking advantage of the credit. He and his neighbour spent most of the fall rebuilding the front porch on their east-end Toronto semi. He also had a contractor fix a flat roof in his backyard, put in a new deck, installed two fireplaces and painted.

    “I spent at least three times the limit for the tax credit,” said the 45-year-old Ontario government worker. “I think almost everyone on my street had something done to take advantage of it.”

    Robert Katzer had a contractor redo both bathrooms in his Victoria condo, putting in marble sinks and faucets, along with a new bathtub with marble wall linings. Not done there, he upgraded most of the lighting in the unit, replaced the carpets, painted, caulked the windows and retiled the fireplace. “It wasn’t cheap but I love the end result,” he said.

    Across Canada, the tax credit seems to have provided the push many Canadians needed to get those home reno projects going.

    Mr. Wilson says he might have taken care of the renos in the next year or two, but the tax credit prompted him to do it now. “I love this credit. The prospect of getting $1,350 back is just so appealing. If it were continued next year, I would definitely consider re-doing my kitchen next year.”

    How long will it last?

    Contractors and home renovation retailers would also like to see the tax measure extended, arguing that it would continue to boost the economy and allow the recovery to fully take hold.

    But Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said this week the measure was “not inexpensive” and the government’s plan is to let it expire at month’s end. He also ruled out any kind of extension back in December, when he said: “Well, that’s our plan to end it at the end of January, yes.”

    RBC Dominion Securities Inc. chartered accountant and certified financial planner Suzanne Schultz says the credit, which was part of the conservative government’s stimulus plan, has been successful. “The point of this was to get the economy going and it seems to have done that. People are spending, retailers and contractors are saying they are busy.”

    She says people who bought materials in order to qualify for the home renovation tax credit but ran out of time to get the work done before next week’s expiry date will likely keep contractors busy for the first part of 2010. After that, however, she expects to see a lull.

    Ms. Schultz urged people to get out and make their purchases before the Jan. 31st deadline. “Make a list of what you need done and get shopping. This is not common, for the federal government to introduce short-term tax measurers like this.”

    Getting the right mortgage will help you with retirement

    General Angela Calla 22 Jan

    Retirement: Three magic numbers

    by David Aston, MoneySense Magazine
    Monday, January 18, 2010provided by

    Nothing is more frustrating than trying to figure out how much to save for retirement. You know the amount you’ll need to save depends on what kind of retirement lifestyle you want. But how can you decide that without having some idea of how much it will cost? Is dreaming of endless vacations and a 44-ft yacht realistic? Or should you be aiming for walks in the park and the occasional meal out? Many people have no idea what they’re aiming for—and after a lot of sweating and calculating, they end up right back where they started.

    We can help. While many retirement plans use complex formulas to calculate what you’ll need, we find that many Canadians just want a ballpark to aim for. If your retirement is still quite a ways off, it’s often good enough just to know what you’ll need to save to achieve each of three levels of potential retirement: a bare-bones basic retirement; a middle-class retirement with two cars, some restaurant meals and vacations every year; and finally, a deluxe retirement complete with a vacation home or regular jaunts around the world. Interested to know what kind of dent each of these three scenarios will make on your nest egg? Read on and we’ll price them out for you.

    No-frills retirement

    This is the worst-case scenario, but it’s good to know what you’ll need if you just want to scrape by, if only because it gives you a starting point to build from. For this scenario, the costing has already been done for us in a recent study, called Basic Living Expenses for the Canadian Elderly, by three University of Waterloo researchers. The study describes a no-frills retirement as one in which a couple rents (rather than owns), has no vehicles (so they take public transit), and it doesn’t include spare cash for even minor indulgences such as cable TV or alcohol. This is not the stuff of most people’s retirement dreams, but the study does budget for three nutritious home-prepared meals a day, a one-bedroom apartment plus utilities, along with typical health-care costs and other essentials like clothing and personal-care products.

    How much do you need?

    The study’s authors conclude that the annual cost of such a retirement in five major Canadian cities ranges from $20,200 to $27,400. Here’s the good news: to achieve this bare-bones scenario you don’t have to save a penny. The combination of full Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) program for low-income seniors pretty much covers all your basic needs, at least outside the highest-rent cities. If you and your spouse are at least 65, those government programs would provide you with a combined $22,750 a year if you have no other income. “We’ve kind of made sure the Canadian elderly don’t live in poverty but we’ve given them, like, 50 cents more than the poverty line,” says study co-author Robert Brown.

    Canadians who have worked most of their lives can also usually count on substantial Canada Pension Plan payouts in retirement. A couple which receives the average CPP payout, plus maximum OAS, and maybe a little bit of GIS, can expect to receive almost $30,000 a year. So you can relax about the worst-case scenario: Even if you don’t save at all, you’re not going to have to live off cat food.

    Middle-class retirement

    Most Canadians, of course, hope to do better than bare-bones. Bill VanGorder, 66, the Nova Scotia chair of CARP, a group representing older Canadians, says he wants the same level of comfort he enjoyed while he was working—maybe even a bit better. He finds that increasingly seniors want to travel, pursue sometimes pricey hobbies like golf, eat out at restaurants, and maintain cottages or second homes in warm places. For the most part, this lifestyle is about having experiences and being active, rather than having more possessions. In fact, some seniors are downsizing to smaller homes to help finance their active lifestyle, he says. Active senior couples with different interests are more likely to want to keep two cars to allow both spouses to stay mobile. And VanGorder himself aspires to do more traveling, including an Alaska cruise, seeing the British Isles, visiting his sister in Australia, and seeing the rest of Canada. He’s also interested in woodworking and was surprised to find the hobby is much more expensive than he anticipated.

    According to Statistics Canada, median spending by a couple over 65 is about $40,000 a year, and average spending is about $51,000. But VanGorder says to enjoy the type of retirement he wants, you might spend as much as $60,000 a year.

    How much do you need?

    Assuming you receive about $30,000 a year from CPP and OAS and have no employer pension, you’ll need a nest egg that can support an additional $10,000 to $30,000 a year in extra spending, plus inflation adjustments. Financial planning research suggests that you need retirement savings that amount to 25 times your annual retirement spend (not including CPP and OAS) if you want to keep spending that much for the rest of your life. So for a typical middle-class retirement, you need a nest egg of $250,000 if you just want to spend the median amount, but if you want a higher-end retirement of the kind VanGorder describes, you’ll need to save up $750,000.

    Retirement deluxe

    Once you get beyond the typical middle-class retirement, costs tend to skyrocket. Norbert Schlenker, a fee-only financial planner with Libra Investment Management on Salt Spring Island, B.C., says that at this level the fundamentals don’t change—people still typically have a house, two cars, restaurant meals and vacations—it’s just that the house is bigger, the cars are fancier, the restaurants are more exclusive, and the vacations more exotic. Here you are more likely to find the trophy kitchen, memberships in a golf or boating club, professionally designed and maintained gardens, and, says Schlenker, perhaps “the boat their brother-in-law saw.” Such retirees are more likely to own a vacation home, and there is more money available for spoiling the kids and grandkids. There’s no hard and fast cutoff for the deluxe life, but if you’re spending $100,000 or more each year per couple, you’re well into the realm of truly disposable income.

    How much do you need?

    If you don’t have an employer pension, you’ll need to be a millionaire to afford it. Assuming you get $30,000 a year from CPP and OAS, you’ll need retirement savings that can provide you with an additional $70,000 a year, which means a $1.75-million nest egg. If that sounds outrageously high, welcome to the club. Schlenker says that when he does similar calculations for his clients, invariably they’re “just shocked.”

    There’s an interesting exception here though. If you and your spouse both had long careers as public employees, your public sector indexed pensions might be the ticket to the high life. For instance if you and your spouse earned an annual salary of $63,000 each working in the public sector, and you both retired at age 65 after working for 35 years, you can expect to live like royalty when you retire. Your combined pensions plus OAS will typically pay about $100,000 a year plus inflation adjustments—the equivalent to saving up a $1.75 million nest egg. That’s why many public sector workers discover that they actually have a much higher standard of living in retirement than they did when they were working.

    Keep the dream alive

    In the end you have to match wants to means. If you’re no millionaire, there’s no need to give up on your retirement dreams, says Schlenker. Instead try to find a lower-cost version of what you’re looking for that fits your budget. For example, if you planned on owning a luxury beach front condo in a swanky part of Florida, but you’re worried you won’t be able to afford it, you could try renting a condo away from the beach in a less sought-after locale. Or you could do what VanGorder is doing. After retiring he decided to go back to work for three days a week as business development manager for HiringSmart, a systems software and services provider. The extra cash is helping him live the good life, and he loves the work too. “I’m meeting a financial need in a way that, fortunately, turns out to be very enjoyable for me.”




    Bank lowers slightly growth forecast for 2009 and 2010, but keeps interest rates unchanged

    General Angela Calla 20 Jan

    OTTAWA – The global recovery is under way but expansion of the Canadian economy remains dependent on government support and historically low interest rates, the Bank of Canada said today.

    As expected, the central bank again pledged to keep its trendsetting policy rate at the lowest practical level of 0.25 per cent until mid-2010, saying the economy at the moment is performing slightly worse than it projected three months ago.

    To reinforce the commitment, the bank said it was extending its emergency lending instruments to April, with maturity dates beyond June, at the low policy rate.

    The announcement contained few surprises for markets, but the tweaking of growth rates — although at the margins — was somewhat unexpected.

    “Economic growth in Canada resumed in the third quarter of 2009 and is expected to have picked up further in the fourth quarter,” bank governor Mark Carney and his policy-making council said in an accompanying note.

    “Nevertheless, considerable excess supply remains, and the bank judges that the economy was operating about 3.25 per cent below its production capacity in the fourth quarter of 2009.”

    Carney had been among the most bullish of forecasters for the economy this year, although by historic standards, even Carney was not anticipating a robust recovery.

    Now the bank says the economy likely contracted by 2.5 per cent last year, a little worse than the 2.4 per cent it had predicted in October.

    As well, it says growth this year will be 2.9 per cent, one-tenth of a point less than it had previously forecast and more in line with the private sector consensus of 2.6 per cent.

    The good news is that the economy will make the up ground in 2011, says the bank, with a growth rate of 3.5 per cent. It had earlier pegged next year’s growth at 3.3 per cent.

    The bank’s message to Canadians is that although conditions are improving, strengthened by a global economy that is expanding faster than expected, the recovery still is dependent on “exceptional monetary and fiscal stimulus, as well as extraordinary measures taken to support financial systems.”

    In Canada, the bank says the private sector won’t become the sole driver of domestic demand until 2011.

    As has been the case throughout the recession, Canada’s recovery continues to be hampered by the slow pick-up in U.S. demand for Canadian products and the high Canadian dollar, which makes those exports less competitive.

    That means Canada’s internal domestic economy, largely reflected in consumer spending and the hot housing market, will be the main engine of the recovery.

    The bank noted that inflation has been rising faster than it anticipated, but appeared not to be overly concerned, especially with the large amount of slack in the economy.

    Although economists forecast inflation likely hit 1.6 per cent in December, after being below zero through much of the summer and part of the fall, the bank said it still doesn’t believe inflation will return to the two-per-cent target until the third quarter of 2011, when it expects the economy to be firing on all cylinders.

    Bank of Canada Press Release Jan 19th 2010

    General Angela Calla 19 Jan

    Bank of Canada maintains overnight rate target at 1/4 per cent and reiterates conditional commitment to hold current policy rate until the end of the second quarter of 2010

    OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada today announced that it is maintaining its target for the overnight rate at 1/4 per cent. The Bank Rate is unchanged at 1/2 per cent and the deposit rate is 1/4 per cent.

    The global economic recovery is under way, supported by continued improvements in financial conditions and stronger domestic demand growth in many emerging-market economies. While the outlook for global growth through 2010 and 2011 is somewhat stronger than the Bank had projected in its October Monetary Policy Report, the recovery continues to depend on exceptional monetary and fiscal stimulus, as well as extraordinary measures taken to support financial systems.

    Economic growth in Canada resumed in the third quarter of 2009 and is expected to have picked up further in the fourth quarter. Total CPI inflation turned positive in the fourth quarter and the core rate of inflation has been slightly higher than expected in recent months. Nevertheless, considerable excess supply remains, and the Bank judges that the economy was operating about 3 ¼ per cent below its production capacity in the fourth quarter of 2009.

    Canada’s economic recovery is expected to evolve largely as anticipated in the October MPR, with the economy returning to full capacity and inflation to the 2 per cent target in the third quarter of 2011. The Bank projects that the economy will grow by 2.9 per cent in 2010 and 3.5 per cent in 2011, after contracting by 2.5 per cent in 2009.

    The factors shaping the recovery are largely unchanged – policy support, increased confidence, improving financial conditions, global growth, and higher terms of trade. At the same time, the persistent strength of the Canadian dollar and the low absolute level of U.S. demand continue to act as significant drags on economic activity in Canada. On balance, these factors have shifted the composition of aggregate demand towards growth in domestic demand and away from net exports. The private sector should become the sole driver of domestic demand growth in 2011.

    Conditional on the outlook for inflation, the target overnight rate can be expected to remain at its current level until the end of the second quarter of 2010 in order to achieve the inflation target. Consistent with this conditional commitment, the Bank will continue to conduct term Purchase and Resale Agreements based on existing terms and conditions and according to the accompanying schedule:

    In its conduct of monetary policy at low interest rates, the Bank retains considerable flexibility, consistent with the framework outlined in the April 2009 MPR.

    The risks to the outlook for inflation continue to be those outlined in the October MPR. On the upside, the main risks are stronger-than-projected global and domestic demand. On the downside, the main risks are a more protracted global recovery and persistent strength of the Canadian dollar that could act as a significant further drag on growth and put additional downward pressure on inflation. While the underlying macroeconomic risks to the projection are roughly balanced, the Bank judges that, as a consequence of operating at the effective lower bound, the overall risks to its inflation projection are tilted slightly to the downside.

    Information note:

    A full update of the Bank’s outlook for the economy and inflation, including risks to the projection, will be published in the Monetary Policy Report on 21 January 2010. The next scheduled date for announcing the overnight rate target is 2 March 2010.

    Bank of Canada Keeps Rates the same

    General Angela Calla 19 Jan

    The Bank of Canada kept its benchmark lending rate at 0.25 per cent Tuesday, reiterating its conditional commitment to hold rates steady until the middle of 2010.

    Although it held the overnight lending rate steady, the bank did acknowledge that the recovery appears to be proceeding at a better pace than it was anticipating.

    “While the outlook for global growth through 2010 and 2011 is somewhat stronger than the bank had projected in its October monetary policy report, the recovery continues to depend on exceptional monetary and fiscal stimulus, as well as extraordinary measures taken to support financial systems,” the bank said in announcing the rate decision.

    The Canadian economy grew by a tepid 0.1 per cent in the third quarter, Statistics Canada reported last month. But that “is expected to have picked up further in the fourth quarter,” the bank said.

    The Bank projects that the economy will grow by 2.9 per cent in 2010 and 3.5 per cent in 2011, after contracting by 2.5 per cent in 2009.

    In its statement, the bank repeated its mild concern over the risk that the elevated Canadian dollar presents to the recovery.

    “The persistent strength of the Canadian dollar … continues to act as a significant drag on economic activity in Canada,” the bank said.

    The bank is set to release its next decision on interest rates on March 2.

    Rates to stay steady

    “The bank remains committed to the conditional commitment to keep rates steady and low until mid-year,” said BMO Capital Markets deputy chief economist Doug Porter.

    “Our view is that the bank then starts gradually lifting rates immediately thereafter, and there’s little here to sway that outlook. The recovery continues, but it will remain sub-par and still depends on a lot of stimulus.”

    The bank also acknowledged that core inflation — excluding more volatile food and energy prices — was “higher than expected in recent months.”

    In a commentary, ATB Financial economist Dan Sumner said: “The closer we get to the all important third quarter rate announcements there will be more pressure on the BOC to provide guidance on the speed with which interest rates will be brought higher.”

    Rates shall remain low for longer then the BOC’s original commitment

    General Angela Calla 19 Jan

    Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) — The Bank of Canada will probably keep its benchmark interest rate at a record low tomorrow and repeat a pledge to leave it unchanged through June.

    The target rate for overnight loans between commercial banks will remain at 0.25 percent, where it’s been since April, according to all 26 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The decision will be announced tomorrow at 9 a.m. New York time.

    Governor Mark Carney has said Canada’s economy will operate with “slack” through the middle of 2011 as exports are curbed by the Canadian dollar’s 21 percent gain against its U.S. counterpart in the past year. Inflation slower than the central bank’s 2 percent target means Carney is unlikely to break his pledge to freeze rates until the second half of the year.

    “The Bank of Canada has a bit of room to keep policy rates low over the next several months,” said Tom Nakamura, a fixed- income portfolio manager for AGF Investments Inc. in Toronto, who helps oversee about C$6 billion ($5.83 billion). “Economic activity we have seen so far is positive, but not enough to change the bank’s forecast for growth and inflation.”

    Investors expect no rate increase until September, yields on overnight index swaps indicate. The yield on the contract due in September traded at 0.36 percent at 12:39 p.m. Toronto time, and the October contract traded at 0.40 percent.

    Consumer spending led by home purchases will lead a recovery, allowing Carney to raise rates in the third quarter, said Meny Grauman, a senior economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Toronto.

    ‘Keep Commitment’

    “They would like to keep that commitment and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to,” Grauman said.

    Carney will probably raise the key rate to 0.75 percent in the third quarter and to 1.5 percent by the end of the year, according economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. A separate survey for the U.S. shows economists don’t expect the Federal Reserve to raise its benchmark rate to 0.75 percent until the fourth quarter.

    Low mortgage rates helped push existing home sales to a record in December, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Jan. 15. The average five-year mortgage rate was 5.49 percent last week and 5.25 percent in May, the lowest since 1951.

    A 19 percent jump in home prices over the past year hasn’t pushed the inflation rate above the central bank’s target. Consumer prices rose 1 percent in November, Statistics Canada said Dec. 17. The so-called core rate, which excludes gasoline and seven other volatile items, slowed to 1.5 percent.

    ‘Cold Water’

    Bank of Canada Adviser David Wolf said in a speech last week it’s “premature” to conclude there’s a bubble in the housing market, and a rate increase to slow it would “be dousing the entire Canadian economy with cold water, just as it emerges from recession.”

    Canada “dug quite a hole” and the recovery “is not that solid,” said Dale Orr, head of Dale Orr Economic Insight in Toronto, in a telephone interview.

    The strong currency and weak U.S. demand for the country’s cars and lumber will limit economic growth to 3 percent this year after last year’s 2.4 percent contraction, the central bank said in October. The bank will issue an updated detailed forecast on Jan. 21.

    The Canadian currency appreciated 0.4 percent to C$1.0251 per U.S. dollar today, from C$1.0291 on Jan. 15. One Canadian dollar buys 97.5 U.S. cents. In October, the central bank raised its assumption for where the currency will trade through 2011 to 96 U.S. cents from the 87 U.S. cents it had assumed in July.

    Restrained Spending

    Consumer spending will be restrained because of job losses in provinces such as Alberta and Ontario, said Jeremy Reitman, president of Reitmans Ltd., a chain of women’s clothing stores.

    Cautious spending by Canadians “is going to persist” this year, Reitman said in an interview from Montreal. “We are still very price conscious in Canada due to the lack of disposable income.”

    The country lost 239,700 jobs last year, the first decline since 1992, and 323,400 jobs since employment peaked in October 2008. Prime Minister Stephen Harper this month said that restoring job growth will be one of his main challenges.

    Canadian companies surveyed by the Bank of Canada expect the recovery to be gradual, the central bank reported Jan. 11. They also reported near-record optimism about future sales growth and continued easing of credit conditions.

    Record home sales capping 2009 due to supply and demand, not bubble

    General Angela Calla 19 Jan

    TORONTO — Record home sales last month are based on low supply and high demand and are more likely to drop off this year than inflate a housing bubble that could threaten a fragile recovery, economists say.

    A Canadian Real Estate Association report released Friday said December and the 2009 fourth quarter were the best periods on record for home resales, while prices also rose sharply from their year-earlier levels.

    Meanwhile, strong demand continued to deplete the number of homes for sale and the estimated 5.6 months it would take to sell a house through the Multiple Listing Service in December was less than half the 12.3 months it would have taken a year earlier.

    The number of total listings fell 22 per cent in December from the same 2008 period and 12.6 per cent for the year.

    The imbalance in supply and demand drove the national average price of homes to $337,410 in December, 19 per cent higher than in December 2008, but slightly lower than the 2009 average of $348,840.

    Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets said while high prices caused by strong demand and weak supply could pose a risk to the fragile recovery, he is not willing to jump on the “bubble bandwagon” yet.

    A bubble occurs when prices increase without any sound underlying fundamentals, he explained, and that’s not the case in Canada’s housing market, which is closely tied to changing interest rates and economic fundamentals.

    “We still do have a relatively tight supply situation and exceptionally low interest rates and a mild recovery in the economy, so there are a lot of good reasons why home prices are rising.”

    “What we’re seeing is almost textbook recovery,” he said. “The speed of the recovery is mind-boggling, the fact that housing is leading the recovery is really not a surprise… it’s exactly what you’d expect to happen.”

    Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Friday he does not see a housing bubble yet, but he noted the government has many tools at its disposal — from raising down payment requirements on insured mortgages, to lowering amortization periods and urging the banks to be more cautious in their lending — to prevent such a thing from happening.

    “We don’t want to have a group of house purchasers who purchased houses now at insured mortgages at relatively low rates who would not be able to manage them if rates were to increase later on,” Flaherty said in an interview with Business News Network, a cable TV business channel in Toronto.

    “I’ve looked at the numbers with CMHC,” he added. “We’re monitoring it. I do not see evidence of a bubble right now, but we’re going to keep watching it. There are some steps we can take that we will take if it’s necessary.”

    The association said 27,744 units were sold across Canada in December, up 72 per cent from the same month in 2008. The year-earlier period saw the lowest sales in a decade in the wake of a global credit crunch and the start of the recession in Canada.

    The Kitchener-Waterloo Real Estate Board set a record in December with 356 sales. The Real Estate Board of Cambridge recorded 150 sales, up 60 per cent from the same month a year earlier.

    December also marked the end of the strongest quarterly sales volume ever measured by CREA, with 137,957 homes sold over three months on a seasonally adjusted basis — up 2.6 per cent from the previous record set in the first quarter of 2007.

    “CREA’s latest statistics will no doubt spark further bubble talk amongst the usual suspects,” said the association’s chief economist Gregory Klump. “(But) cooler heads recognize that many of the recent gains reflect temporary factors that could fade by summer.”

    The 59 per cent year-over-year fourth quarter gain drove last year’s annual sales volume above 2008 levels, but the number of transactions last year was 10.7 per cent below the peak reached in 2007.

    “The extraordinary decline in activity one year ago and subsequent rebound, particularly for higher-priced real estate, is stretching current year-over-year comparisons,” said Klump.

    Klump believes the market will balance out in 2010 because consumer demand will be met with a supply side rise as the number of new homes increases and cautious homeowners become confident about selling, which will add more homes on the market and help drive prices down.

    Porter said Friday’s report signals that Canadians have regained their confidence in the economy and the surge in demand is beginning to be met with a serious supply response, citing a notable uptick in December housing starts.

    “Builders had been very cautious and they’re only now starting to crank up their output again, but even so, the comeback in new housing starts has been much more modest than the rebound we’ve seen in sales,” he said. “And people who own homes have also been a little reluctant to put their house up for sale because of the broader uncertainty that we’ve seen.”

    He said that the demand in housing was most pronounced in B.C. and Ontario, where home buyers might be hoping to beat the introduction of the HST, the harmonized sales tax which is set to replace provincial taxes in those provinces later this year.

    The Bank of Canada indicated last week that it was premature to be talking about a housing bubble in Canada and said recent house price increases are in line with supply and demand fundamentals.

    The bank considers the current hot market to be a phenomenon based on temporary factors, such as pent-up demand from the recession, and low mortgage rates.

    A CIBC forecast released Thursday indicated that the hot housing market will continue to drive economic growth during the first half of 2010, but will come to a screeching halt in the second half of the year, when interest rates are expected to rise.