24 Jan

The Bank of Canada Holds Rates Steady And Expects Rate Cuts Later This Year


Posted by: Jen Lowe

The Bank of Canada Holds Rates Steady And Expects Rate Cuts Later This Year
Today, The Bank of Canada held the overnight rate at 5% for the fourth consecutive meeting but provided an outlook suggesting that monetary easing will begin by mid-year. The Bank forecasts a soft landing for the Canadian economy, with inflation falling to 2.5% by the end of this year. While some economists predict a recession, the Bank suggests that “growth will likely remain close to zero through the first quarter of 2024” and “strengthen gradually around the middle of 2024.” This would be a soft landing.

While inflation ended 2023 at 3.4%, owing mainly to high and sticky shelter costs, “the Bank expects inflation to remain close to 3% during the first half of this year before gradually easing, returning to the 2% target in 2025. While the slowdown in demand is reducing price pressures in a broader number of CPI components and corporate pricing behaviour continues to normalize, core measures of inflation are not showing sustained declines.”

The press release says that the “Governing Council wants to see further and sustained easing in core inflation and continues to focus on the balance between demand and supply in the economy, inflation expectations, wage growth, and corporate pricing behaviour.”  The Bank now believes the economy is in excess supply, inflation expectations and corporate pricing behaviour are moving in the right direction, and wage demands, at 5.4% year-over-year in the last reading–are still too high. Wages are a lagging indicator and with job vacancies returning to pre-pandemic levels, wage pressures are likely to dissipate as the year progresses.

Today, the tone was much more optimistic, suggesting that policymakers are increasingly confident interest rates are restrictive enough to bring inflation back to the 2% target. Still, Bank officials want to see more progress on core inflation before it begins to ease. It said, “The Bank’s preferred measures of core inflation have been around 3½-4%, with the October data coming in towards the lower end of this range.”

The central bank focuses on “the balance between demand and supply in the economy, inflation expectations, wage growth, and corporate pricing behaviour” and remains resolute in restoring price stability.

Bottom Line

This was a more upbeat Bank of Canada statement. There is a good chance that monetary tightening has done its job, and inflation will trend downward in the coming months. As we have seen, the road to 2% inflation is bumpy, but we are heading there probably sooner than the Bank expects. As predicted, they are staying the course for now, but multiple rate cuts are likely this year. The scheduled dates for announcing the policy rate are March 6, April 10, June 5 and July 24. The Bank of Canada will begin cutting the overnight rate somewhere in there.

For now, my bet is on the June meeting, but if I’m wrong, it will likely be sooner rather than later. Once they begin to take rates down, they will do so gradually, 25 basis points at a time, and over a series of meetings. We could well see rates fall by 100-to-150 bps this year. Risks to the outlook remain, as always.

I do not expect the overnight policy rate to fall as low as the pre-Covid level of 1.75% this cycle. Inflation averaged less than 2% in the five years before COVID-19, depressed by increasing globalization and technological advances. Those forces are now reversed.

Writing by Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
16 Jan

Canadian Inflation Rises to 3.4% Y/Y In December


Posted by: Jen Lowe


January 16, 2024

Canadian Inflation Rises to 3.4% Y/Y In December.

a bumpy road to the inflation target

Canada’s headline inflation number for December ’23 moved up three bps to 3.4%, as expected, as gasoline prices didn’t fall as fast as a year ago. These so-called base effects were also evident in the earlier US inflation data for the same month.

Additional acceleration came from airfares, fuel oil, passenger vehicles and rent. Prices for food purchased from stores rose 4.7% yearly in December, matching the increase in November (+4.7%). Moderating the acceleration in the all-items CPI were lower prices for travel tours.

On a monthly basis, the CPI fell 0.3% in December after a 0.1% gain in November. Lower month-over-month price movements for travel tours (-18.2%) and gasoline (-4.4%) contributed to the monthly decline. The CPI rose 0.3% in December on a seasonally adjusted monthly basis.

Two key yearly inflation measures that are tracked closely by the Bank of Canada and filter out components with more volatile price fluctuations — the so-called trim and median core rates — increased, averaging 3.65%, from an upwardly revised 3.55% a month earlier. That’s faster than the 3.35% pace expected by economists. The trim rate rose due to the movements of rent and passenger vehicle prices.

Another important indicator, a three-month moving average of underlying price pressures, rose to an annualized pace of 3.63% in December from 2.94% in November, according to Bloomberg calculations. The Bank of Canada follows this metric closely because it reveals shorter-term inflation trends. According to Bloomberg News, following the release of today’s CPI data, “the yield on two-year Canadian government bonds rose about four basis points to 3.857%…Traders in overnight swaps pushed back bets on when the Bank of Canada will start cutting rates to July, from as early as April before the release.”

Bottom Line

This is the last major data release before the Bank of Canada meets again on January 24th. I concur with the widely held view that the rate pause will continue at the next meeting despite evidence that the economy is slowing. Governor Tiff Macklem will err on the side of caution before beginning to cut overnight rates. The last reading on wages showed a 5.4% y/y rise, and yesterday’s housing release showed a bump in sales. Macklem and Co. will keep their powder dry until they see an all-clear signal that core inflation is sustainably below 3%.

Written by DLC’s Chief Economist Dr Sherry Cooper

8 Jan

Brisk Gains in the Job Market will keep the BoC Watchful!


Posted by: Jen Lowe

Brisk Wage Gains in December Will Keep The BoC Watchful

Today’s StatsCanada Labour Force Survey for December was a mixed bag and far more robust than the weak headline figure suggests. Total employment in Canada barely budged, rising by a mere 100 jobs in the final month of last year. However, the labour force participation rate fell, leaving the unemployment rate at 5.8%. Most economists had been expecting considerably more robust job growth and a rising unemployment rate.
Canada has one of the world’s fastest-growing populations owing to high immigration levels. However, employment growth has been slower than labour force growth in recent months.

The employment rate–the proportion of the working-age population with jobs–trended downward in 2023 among core-aged men and women (aged 25 to 54).

The participation rate—the number of employed and unemployed people as a percentage of the population aged 15 and older—fell in December (-0.2 percentage points) to 65.4%. This was down from a recent peak of 65.7% in June. Most of the decline from June to December was attributable to a drop in the youth participation rate, which decreased 2.1 percentage points to 63.5% over the period. On a year-over-year basis, the labour force participation rate fell 3.3 percentage points to 85.4% among youth not attending school. At the same time, it declined 1.0 percentage points to 46.4% among youth who were students (not seasonally adjusted).

The participation rate held steady among those in the core-aged group (88.7%) and people aged 55 years and older (36.9%), compared with June 2023 and December 2022.

Total hours worked rose 0.4% month-over-month in December and 1.7% from a year earlier. That followed a 0.7% month-over-month drop in November.

Employment in professional, scientific and technical services increased by 46,000 (+2.4%) in December, following little change in the three previous months. This was the second monthly increase in the industry in 2023, the first having been a rise of 52,000 in August. On a year-over-year basis, employment in this industry was up by 78,000 (+4.2%) in December.

Following four months of little change, employment in health care and social assistance rose by 16,000 (+0.6%) in December, building on increases in June (+21,000) and July (+25,000). On a year-over-year basis, health care and social assistance employment increased by 124,000 (+4.8%) in December. According to the most recent data from the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey, the job vacancy rate in healthcare and social assistance was 5.3% in October 2023, down from a peak of 6.3% in April but still the highest rate across all sectors.

In December, employment fell in wholesale and retail trade (-21,000; -0.7%) for a third consecutive month. From August to December, work in the industry decreased by 80,000 (-2.7%). This followed gains from December 2022 to August 2023, when employment increased by 108,000 (+3.7%).

Employment rose in British Columbia (+18,000; +0.6%), Nova Scotia (+6,300; +1.3%), Saskatchewan (+4,800; +0.8%), and Newfoundland and Labrador (+2,400; +1.0%) in December, while it declined in Ontario (-48,000; -0.6%). Employment in other provinces was primarily unchanged.

The most concerning thing for the Bank of Canada was the acceleration in wage inflation to 5.4% y/y last month, compared to 4.8% in the prior two months. With Canadian productivity falling, this is particularly troublesome for the overall inflation outlook. For this reason, the Bank of Canada will continue to be cautious.