21 May

Canadian CPI Inflation Eased In April, Raising the Chances of a June Rate Cut – May 21 2024

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Posted by: Matthew J. Charlton

MAY 21 2024

Canadian Inflation Eased Again in April, Raising the Chances of a June Rate Cut

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 2.7% year-over-year (y/y) in April, down from 2.9% in March. This marks the fourth consecutive decline in core inflation. Food prices, services, and durable goods led to the broad-based deceleration in the headline CPI.

The deceleration in the CPI was moderated by gasoline prices, which rose faster in April (+6.1%) than in March (+4.5%). Excluding gasoline, the all-items CPI slowed to a 2.5% year-over-year increase, down from a 2.8% gain in March.

The CPI rose 0.5% m/m in April, mainly due to gasoline prices. On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, it rose 0.2%.

While prices for food purchased from stores continue to increase, the index grew slower year over year in April (+1.4%) compared with March (+1.9%). Price growth for food purchased from restaurants also eased yearly, rising 4.3% in April 2024, following a 5.1% increase in March.

According to Bloomberg calculations, the three-month moving average of the rate rose to an annualized pace of 1.64% from 1.35% in March. That’s the first gain since December.

The Bank of Canada’s preferred core inflation measures, the trim and median core rates, exclude the more volatile price movements to assess the level of underlying inflation. The CPI trim slowed to 2.9% y/y in April, and the median declined to 2.6% from year-ago levels, as shown in the chart below. Rising rent and mortgage interest costs account for a disproportionate share of price growth, with shelter costs up 6.4% year-over-year. Growth in mortgage interest costs slightly decreased in April but remained 24.5% higher than a year ago.

The breadth of inflationary pressures narrowed again in April, with the proportion of the CPI basket experiencing growth exceeding 3%, decreasing to 34% from 38% in March.

Bottom Line

April’s inflation readings largely met expectations but with underlying details (including further slowing in the BoC’s preferred ‘core’ measures) pointing to a further reduction in inflationary pressures. The Bank of Canada is as concerned about where inflation will go in the future as where it is right now. Still, Canada’s persistently softer economic backdrop (declining per-capita GDP and rising unemployment rate) increases the odds that price growth will continue to slow. The case for interest rate cuts from the Bank of Canada continues to build. The central bank has every reason to cut rates at their next meeting on June 5. Still, given the BoC’s extreme caution, we must consider the possibility that they will wait until the July meeting to take action, and only if inflation continues to recede.

Please note: The source of this article is from Sherry Cooper


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15 May

Canadian Home Buyers Remain On the Sidelines In April As New Listings Surge – May 15 2024

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Posted by: Matthew J. Charlton

MAY 15 2024

Homebuyers Cautious As New Listings Surge In April

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) announced today that national home sales dipped in April 2024 from its prior month, as the number of properties available for sale rose sharply to kick off the spring housing market.

Home sales activity recorded over Canadian MLS® Systems fell 1.7% between March and April 2024, a little below the average of the last ten years.

New Listings

The number of newly listed properties rose 2.8% month-over-month.

Slower sales amid more new listings resulted in a 6.5% jump in the overall number of properties on the market, reaching its highest level just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also one of the largest month-over-month gains, second only to those seen during the sharp market slowdown of early 2022.

April 2023 was characterized by a surge of buyers re-entering a market with new listings at 20-year lows, whereas this spring thus far has been the opposite, with a healthier number of properties to choose from but less enthusiasm on the demand side,” said Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s Senior Economist.

Bottom Line

With sales down and new listings up in April, the national sales-to-new listings ratio eased to 53.4%. The long-term average for the national sales-to-new listings ratio is 55%. A sales-to-new listings ratio between 45% and 65% is generally consistent with balanced housing market conditions, with readings above and below this range indicating sellers’ and buyers’ markets, respectively.

There were 4.2 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of April 2024, up from 3.9 months at the end of March and the highest level since the onset of the pandemic. The long-term average is about five months of inventory.

“After a long hibernation, the spring market is now officially underway. The increase in listings is resulting in the most balanced market conditions we’ve seen at the national level since before the pandemic,” said James Mabey, newly appointed Chair of CREA’s 2024-2025 Board of Directors. Mortgage rates are still high, and it remains difficult for many people to break into the market, but for those who can, it’s the first spring market in some time where they can shop around, take their time and exercise some bargaining power. Given how much demand is out there, it’s hard to say how long it will last.

The upcoming CPI data for April, released on May 21, will be crucial for the Bank of Canada. Given the strength in the April jobs report, the Bank is likely to hold off cutting interest rates until July.

Please note: The source of this article is from Sherry Cooper


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10 May

April Jobs Report Much Stronger Than Expected – May 10 2024

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Posted by: Matthew J. Charlton

MAY 10 2024

April’s Strong Job Gains Likely Postpone Rate Cuts Until July

Today’s StatsCanada Labour Force Survey for April blindsided economists by coming in much more robust than expected. Employment in Canada rose a whopping 90,400 in April, the most in 15 months, following a decline in March, surpassing forecasts by a large margin. Substantial job gains were posted in both full-time and part-time work.

After four months of little change, private sector jobs finally took the lead in April. Employment gains were widespread across various industries within the services-producing sector, particularly in professional, scientific and technical services (+26,000; +1.3%), accommodation and food services (+24,000; +2.2%), health care and social assistance (+17,000; +0.6%) and natural resources (+7,700; +2.3%). However, there were declines in the goods-producing sector, notably utilities (-5,000; -3.1%).

Across Canadian provinces, employment increased in Ontario (+25,000; +0.3%), British Columbia (+23,000; +0.8%), Quebec (+19,000 +0.4%) and New Brunswick (+7,800; +2.0%).

Despite the surge in net new jobs, the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.1%. The jobless rate in April was up 1.0 percentage points from a year ago.

Average hourly wages among employees rose 4.7% in April, down meaningfully from the 5.1% pace in March. This is good news for the Bank of Canada and keeps the door open to rate cuts, probably in July. The overall strength of today’s report gives the Bank breathing room to postpone the next rate cut from June to July.

Bottom Line

The central bank meets again on June 5. The April CPI report will be released on May 21. This is by far the most important economic report for the Bank. They will look at the three-month trend in the core inflation measures. These figures have already fallen sharply, but given the strength in the jobs report, the central bank will likely wait another month before they begin cutting interest rates.

Please note: The source of this article is from Sherry Cooper


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17 Apr

Canadian Federal Budget 2024: Higher Deficits, Higher Government Spending, And Higher Taxes for the Wealthy – April 17 2024

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Posted by: Matthew J. Charlton

APRIL 17 2024

Federal Budget Targets Rich Canadians For New Spending

The budget focuses on helping Millennial and Gen Z voters experiencing rising housing costs and other inflationary pressures. The government has set fiscal anchors, such as keeping the deficit below 1% of GDP starting in 2027.

The Canadian federal government released its 2023 budget over a year ago, promising to conduct a strategic spending review to find $15.4 billion in savings. The savings were supposed to achieve fiscal credibility by offsetting the $43 billion in new government spending. However, nearly a year after its announcement, the spending review found only $9 billion in savings, while the government piles on new spending measures in this year’s budget.

The fiscal path is mostly the same as in the 2023 Fall Economic Statement, but only after revenue gains from a resilient economy and further tax increases triggered even bigger spending initiatives.

Government spending is expected to be $480 billion in the next fiscal year, including $54 billion in payments on the country’s debt.

Finance Minister Freeland also announced a soak-the-rich tax scheme, levelling higher taxes on capital gains for people who make more than $250,000 selling stock or property other than a person’s primary residence.

Currently, 50% of capital gains profits are taxed, compared to 100% of a person’s employment income. That will remain the case for the first $250,000 of capital gains income, but it will rise to 66.6% on income above that level. So, the proposal is to reduce the tax-exempt amount to one-third for capital gains exceeding $250,000.

The lower exemption would also apply to businesses for all capital gains, not just those over $250,000. The additional capital gains taxes are expected to rake $19.4 billion into the government’s coffers over the next five years, which is no small measure. This will reduce business capital spending, already at rock-bottom lows, rendering the Canadian productivity problem even more egregious. Higher capital gains taxes also disincentivize investment in residential rental real estate. 

The FY24/25 budget deficit is estimated at $39.8 billion (1.3% of GDP), with the numbers massaged just enough to meet the various ‘fiscal guideposts’. Any path to a balanced budget continues to be absent.

Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem has said provincial government spending is already making it harder to lower inflation. Running federal deficits — on top of large provincial deficits in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia — is irresponsible. The government had previously set fiscal anchors, like keeping the deficit below 1% of GDP starting in 2027.

Philip Cross of the National Post writes, ”deficit spending when inflation is above target violates the 1991 accord between the Government of Canada and the Bank of Canada, which “jointly set forth targets for reducing inflation” and requires both parties to collaborate to achieve that goal.”

Cumulatively, the total deficit between FY23/24 and FY28/29 is now running $10 billion larger than in the Fall Economic Statement.

The Housing Plan

The housing measures were pre-announced, and the market impact should be minimal. However, the higher capital gains inclusion rate will impact those planning to sell valuable properties with much lower cost bases. It will change the economics of real estate investment in rental properties, an area that needs to be more generously funded. 

Some Other Housing Measures:

Allowing 30-year mortgage amortizations for first-time home buyers purchasing new builds. This measure zeroes in on a small subset of the market. In general, though, it stokes excess demand and ultimately does little to improve affordability once prices adjust. Also, limits on the size of insured mortgages mitigate its impact in our most expensive cities. Pre-construction sales usually require a 20% downpayment, which limits the use of insured mortgages, which account for only 15% of mortgage originations.

Increase the RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan limit from $35,000 to $60,000 and extend the three-year payback period.

Create a renters’ bills of rights and tenant protection fund. Some details here are curious, such as a national standard lease agreement (which is provincial jurisdiction). At any rate, the deck is stacked against landlords from bringing more quality rental supply to market—think taxes.

Accelerated capital cost allowances on the construction of new purpose-built rentals and removal of the HST on the construction of student rentals.

Increase the annual Canada Mortgage bond limit to $60 billion from $40 billion.

Top up the Housing Accelerator Fund to incentivize the removal of zoning barriers and tie transit funding to densification along transit corridors.

Bottom Line

This is a pre-election ‘tax and spend’ budget, which will do little to address the problems it claims to solve. It exacerbates other concerns, including insufficient business capital spending, low productivity growth, and insufficient investment in rental real estate. 

Slowing the growth in nonpermanent immigration will, in time, do more to address the housing shortage than any of these measures.

Please note: The source of this article is from Sherry Cooper


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16 Apr

Great News On The Canadian Inflation Front – April 16 2024

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Posted by: Matthew J. Charlton

APRIL 16 2024

Great News On The Inflation Front

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 2.9% year-over-year in March, as expected, up a tick from the February pace owing to a rise in gasoline prices, as prices at the pump rose faster in March compared with February. Excluding gasoline, the all-items CPI slowed to a 2.8% year-over-year increase, down from a 2.9% gain in February.

Shelter prices increased 6.5% year over year in March, rising at the same rate as in February.
The mortgage interest cost index rose 25.4% y/y in March, following a 26.3% increase in February. The homeowners’ replacement cost index, which is related to the price of new homes, declined less in March (-1.0%) compared with February (-1.4%) on a year-over-year basis.

Rent prices continued to climb in March, rising 8.5% year over year, following an 8.2% increase in February. Among other factors, a higher interest rate environment, which can create barriers to homeownership, puts upward pressure on the index.

Prices for services (+4.5%) continued to rise in March compared with February (+4.2%), driven by air transportation and rent. This outpaced price growth for goods (+1.1%), which slowed compared with February (+1.2%) on a yearly basis.

On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, the CPI rose 0.3% in March.

The Bank of Canada’s preferred core inflation measures, the trim and median core rates, exclude the more volatile price movements to assess the level of underlying inflation. The CPI trim slowed a tick to 3.1% y/y in March, and the median declined two ticks to 2.8% from year-ago levels, as shown in the chart below.

Bottom Line

Most importantly, the three-moving average of all core measures of Canadian inflation fell to below 2%, the Bank of Canada’s target inflation level. Governor Tiff Macklem got exactly what he was hoping for: Further confirmation that core inflation was falling within the target range.

Shelter remains the single most significant contributor to total inflation. Excluding shelter, inflation is tracking just 1.5% and has been below the central bank’s 2% target for most of the past six months. This has slowed economic activity, reducing consumer discretionary spending and making it more difficult for businesses to raise prices. Once interest rates fall, mortgage interest costs—a large component of shelter costs—will start falling.

The three-month annualized rates of the Bank of Canada’s core-median and trim indicators slowed to just 1.3% (see chart below), and the average year-over-year rates are down a tick to 3.0%. According to the economists at Desjardins, “the share of components in the CPI basket that are rising more than 3%, an indicator closely watched by Governor Macklem, is down to 38% from 41%. And the share of components showing price growth of less than 1% is up to 44% from 38% in February. Both suggest that the breadth of inflationary pressures is becoming more consistent with the Bank of Canada’s 2% target”.

We will see the April inflation data on May 21, before the next BoC decision date. While gasoline prices have continued to rise this month, so far, the gain has been more muted than in March. With any luck, today’s data will set the stage for the first BoC rate cut in June.

Please note: The source of this article is from Sherry Cooper


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12 Apr

Ho Hum Housing Data In March Provides Hints Of Coming Strength In Spring – April 12 2024

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Posted by: Matthew J. Charlton

APRIL 12 2024

Recent Signs Show Housing Activity Will Strengthen Meaningfully In April

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) announced today that national home sales for March were roughly flat, while new listings fell and prices stagnated. CREA analysts are confident that recent activity will harken stronger housing markets for the rest of this year.

There is significant pent-up demand for housing owing to rapid population growth and first-time homebuyers’ fears that prices will rise sharply once the Bank of Canada cuts interest rates. Moreover, Ottawa has been handing out goodies for first-time buyers–leaking what’s to come in the April 16 federal budget. The Finance Minister has already announced the resumption of 30-year amortization on insured mortgages for first-time buyers of new construction. While this is less than meets the eye, in that pre-sales typically require a 20% deposit, the homebuilders’ association is pretty excited.

In addition, Ottawa has eased restrictions on the RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan, allowing F-T buyers to withdraw $60,000–up from $ 35,000 (never mind that the $35K ceiling is hardly ever broached)–with 5 years until repayments must begin, up from two years.

Ottawa is also providing assistance to at-risk homeowners, telling lenders to work with these households to lower payments “to a number they can afford, for as long as they need to” by allowing longer remaining amortizations. The Department of Finance is encouraging lenders to begin working with these at-risk households two years before scheduled renewals. The unintended consequences of this could be significant. For example, what happens to the mortgage-backed securities market and other investors in mortgages? Also, this reduces competition by discouraging refinancings and could raise the cost of borrowing for all participants.

Ottawa has never been very good at considering the second-order effects of their actions. A case in point is the decision to markedly increase immigration (for lots of good reasons) without considering where all of these new people would live. This has led to a massive housing shortage and the least affordable housing in Canadian history. Now that Trudeau’s approval ratings have suffered, they are scrambling to remediate, but increasing demand for housing is obviously not the answer.

There will be more news on Tuesday when I dissect the federal budget’s housing initiatives. The more government money spent, the more money borrowed, which will only raise interest rates from what they will otherwise be.

Back to the March data, national home sales edged up a mere 0.5% month-over-month, although activity rose 1.7%. That was a much smaller gain than those recorded in the previous two months, although a part of that does reflect a mostly inactive market during the Easter long weekend.

New Listings

The number of newly listed homes declined by 1.6% month-over-month in March. “While the official March monthly numbers were quite flat, anecdotal evidence from late last month and early April suggests activity is ramping up,” said Larry Cerqua, Chair of CREA.

With sales edging up and new listings falling in March, the national sales-to-new listings ratio tightened to 57.4%. The long-term average is 55%. A sales-to-new listings ratio between 45% and 65% is generally consistent with balanced housing market conditions, with readings above and below this range indicating sellers’ and buyers’ markets, respectively.

At the end of March, there were 3.8 months of inventory nationwide, unchanged from the end of February. The long-term average is about five months of inventory.

New listings rose sharply in late March and early April–good news on all fronts.

The actual national average home price in March was up 2% year-over-year from a markedly depressed level. The MLS Home Price Index was roughly unchanged, down markedly from its early 2022 peak when the central bank’s overnight policy rate was a mere 25 basis points before they started hiking rates in March, two years ago.

Bottom Line

With pent-up demand for housing rising with every rent increase, the spring housing season is likely to be robust, even before the central bank cuts interest rates. We believe the BoC will begin reducing the policy rate in June or July, depending on the next two CPI reports. March inflation data will be released on Tuesday (a big day for economic news), and April data will come out on May 21st. The next Bank of Canada decision date is June 5th.

Please note: The source of this article is from Sherry Cooper


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10 Apr

Bank of Canada Holds Rates Steady For Sixth Consecutive Meeting – April 10 2024

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Posted by: Matthew J. Charlton

APRIL 10 2024

The Bank of Canada Cautious, But A Rate Cut In June Is Possible

Today, the Bank of Canada held the overnight rate at 5% for the sixth consecutive meeting and pledged to continue normalizing its balance sheet. Governor Macklem confirmed that inflation is moving in the right direction, labour markets are easing, and wage pressures appear to be dissipating. In today’s release of the April Monetary Policy Report (MPR), the central bank forecasters lowered their 2024 inflation forecast to 2.6% from 2.8%. However, the Governing Council needs more evidence to be confident that the downtrend in inflation is sustainable.

In contrast, the US CPI data released today for March showed that underlying inflation topped forecasts for the third consecutive month, and the US jobs data also beat estimates. This is in direct contrast to the news of better-than-expected inflation in Canada and the easing of labour markets. The Canadian economy is far more interest-rate sensitive than the US because mortgage terms are far shorter. Over 60% of all outstanding mortgages are up for renewal in the next two to three years, adding to monthly mortgage payments. That process has already begun.

While the Canadian economy slowed at the end of last year, more recent data suggest a bounceback in the first quarter. The Bank revised up its forecast for GDP growth in the first half of 2024 but reduced its economic outlook for next year. The Bank expects inflation to hit its 2% inflation target in 2025.

Bottom Line

Governor Macklem’s prepared opening statement at today’s press conference was more dovish on inflation than in prior months. “We are seeing what we need to see, but we need to see it for longer to be confident that progress toward price stability will be sustained,” Macklem said in the prepared text.  If things go according to today’s MPR forecasts, policymakers are likely to begin cutting the overnight rate in June.

Still, Macklem called further declines in core inflation “very recent,” adding that the bank wants to “be assured this is not just a temporary dip.

“While inflation is still too high and risks remain, CPI and core inflation have eased further in recent months,” officials said in the policy statement.

The next decision date is June 5, when overnight swaps traders pared their bets to about a 50-50 chance of a 25 basis point cut at that meeting, down from over two-thirds before today’s data release. A July rate cut is fully priced in.

We will know more this coming Tuesday when the March CPI data (along with the federal budget) are released. April CPI will be posted on May 21.  As the chart below shows, inflation data in Canada is rapidly approaching the 2% target, well ahead of the US, although set backs can’t be ruled out. For example, gasoline prices have risen since early February. However, the proportion of CPI sectors showing less than 1% gains is rising as those showing more than 3% increases are falling fast.

Please note: The source of this article is from Sherry Cooper


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5 Apr

Canadian Job Market Whimpers in March While US Roars – April 5 2024

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Posted by: Matthew J. Charlton

APRIL 5 2024

March’s Weak Jobs Report Sets The Stage For A June Rate Cut

Today’s StatsCanada Labour Force Survey for March is much weaker than expected. Employment fell by 2,200, and the employment rate declined for the sixth consecutive month to 61.4%.

Total hours worked in March were virtually unchanged but up 0.7% compared with 12 months earlier.

The details were similar to the headline: as full-time jobs dipped, total hours worked fell 0.3%, and only two provinces managed job growth. Among the type of worker, a 29k drop in self-employment was the primary source of weakness, while private sector jobs managed a decent 15k gain. The issue for the Bank of Canada is that wage gains are not softening even with a rising jobless rate. Average hourly wages actually nudged up to a 5.1% y/y pace, now more than two percentage points above headline inflation. With productivity barely moving, these 5% gains will feed into costs and threaten to keep inflation sticky.

The unemployment rate in Canada jumped to 6.1% in March of 2024 from 5.8% in the earlier month, the highest since October of 2021, and sharply above market expectations of 5.9%. The result aligned with the Bank of Canada’s rhetoric that higher interest rates have a more significant impact on the Canadian labour market, strengthening the argument for doves in the BoC’s Governing Council that a rate cut may be due by the second quarter. The unemployed population jumped by 60,000 to 1.260 million, with 65% searching for jobs for over one month. Unemployment rose to an over-seven-year high for the youth (12.6% vs 11.6% in February) and grew at a softer pace for the core-aged population (5.2% vs 5%).In March, fewer people were employed in accommodation and food services (-27,000; -2.4%), wholesale and retail trade (-23,000; -0.8%), and professional, scientific, and technical services (-20,000; -1.0%). Employment increased in four industries, led by health care and social assistance (+40,000; +1.5%).

Average hourly wages among employees rose 5.1% (+$1.69 to $34.81) year over year in March, following growth of 5.0% in February (not seasonally adjusted). This is still too high for the Bank of Canada’s comfort.

Bottom Line

The central bank meets again next Wednesday, and a rate cut is unlikely. I still expect rate cuts to begin at the following meeting in June. The Canadian economy, though resilient, will suffer from rising mortgage costs as many mortgages come under renewal over the next two years. Delinquency rates have already risen. Moreover, the planned reduction in temporary residents will also slow economic activity.

With the US jobs market still booming, it is likely the BoC will begin cutting rates before the Fed.

Please note: The source of this article is from Sherry Cooper


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3 Apr

Canada’s Economic Outlook – April 3 2024

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Posted by: Matthew J. Charlton

APRIL 3 2024

Potential Rate Cuts and Housing Market Dynamics

The Bank of Canada’s Governing Council was split on the timing of rate cuts this year when they deliberated before the March press release. But the February inflation data signaled that rate cuts should be coming soon. After all, inflation has slowed markedly along with the economy.

While the unprecedented influx of new immigrants has boosted economic activity, the overall outlook for consumer spending will be dampened by the large volume of mortgage renewals in the next two years. Many will suffer a double-digit monthly payment increase, undoubtedly dampening discretionary spending. High food prices already burden consumers. Even though food inflation has diminished, prices have not fallen.

A June rate cut is coming, and there is even a possibility of an easing in monetary policy at the April 10 meeting. The spring housing season will be buoyant. Home prices already began to rise in February. And while home sales have been weak, the sunshine might entice the pent-up supply of existing homes to the market. For every move-up and downsizing buyer, there is a new listing on the other side.

First-time homebuyers may also start to take the plunge for fear that prices will rise further. They can lock in a two- or three-year fixed-rate mortgage if they are nervous. Many have been saving their money since 2022.

The Alt-A market is also poised for a pick-up as many more alternative lenders have strong balance sheets and well-diversified portfolios and talk about creating a demand for Alt-A mortgage-backed bonds. These would be relatively high-yielding bonds with reasonable credit ratings owing to the diversity of mortgages from every province in Canada.

Please note: The source of this article is from Sherry Cooper


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19 Mar

Great News On The Canadian Inflation Front – March 19 2024

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Posted by: Matthew J. Charlton

MARCH 19 2024

Great News On The Inflation Front

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 2.8% year-over-year in February, down from the 2.9% January pace and much slower than the 3.1% expected rate. Gasoline prices rose in Canada for the first time in five months, which led many analysts to forecast a rise in February inflation as seen in the US. However, offsetting the increase in gas prices was a deceleration in the cost of cellular services, food purchased from stores, and Internet access services.

Excluding gasoline, the headline CPI slowed to a 2.9% year-over-year increase in February, down from 3.2% in January. Prices for rent and the mortgage interest cost index continued to apply upward pressure on the headline CPI.

On a monthly basis, the CPI rose 0.3% in February, the same as in January. The most significant contributors to the monthly increase were higher travel tours and gasoline prices.

On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, the CPI rose 0.1% in February.

Prices for food purchased from stores continued to ease year over year in February (+2.4%) compared with January (+3.4%). Slower price growth was broad-based, with prices for fresh fruit (-2.6%), processed meat (-0.6%), and fish (-1.3%) declining. Other food preparations (+1.4%), preserved fruit and fruit preparations (+4.0%), cereal products (+1.7%), and dairy products (+0.6%) decelerated in February.

February was the first month since October 2021 that grocery prices increased slower than headline inflation. The slower price growth is partially attributable to a base-year effect, as food purchased from stores rose 0.7% month over month in February 2023 due to supply constraints amid unfavourable weather in growing regions and higher input costs.

While grocery price growth has been slowing, prices continue to increase and remain elevated. From February 2021 to February 2024, prices for food purchased from stores increased by 21.6%.

The Bank of Canada’s preferred core inflation measures, the trim and median core rates, exclude the more volatile price movements to assess the level of underlying inflation. The CPI trim slowed two ticks to 3.2% in February, and the median also declined two ticks to 3.1% from year-ago levels, as shown in the chart below.

Bottom Line

The next meeting of the Bank of Canada Governing Council is on April 10. Before then, we will see two more important data releases:

  1. The Bank of Canada Business Outlook Survey and Canadian Survey of Consumer Expectation and;
  2. The Labour Force Survey for March.

Neither of these reports will likely derail the central bank’s move to cut interest rates by the June 5 meeting. Indeed, they could begin to cut rates at the April meeting. This would no doubt trigger a whopping Spring housing market, which is likely to be strong. There is significant pent-up demand for housing, and the prospect of home price increases could well move buyers off the sidelines if a surge in new listings comes to fruition.

The Canadian economy is particularly interest rate sensitive because of the vast volumes of mortgages that will be renewed in the next two years. Mortgage delinquency rates are already rising, so a gradual decline in interest rates is welcome news.

As the chart below shows, the three-month rolling average growth rates for the CPI trim and median core measures averaged 2.2% in February–their lowest reading in three years.

According to the Royal Bank economists, “Building on the January CPI report that was already showing broad-based easing in price pressures in Canada, the February report today reaffirmed those trends. Different measures of core inflation decelerated, and the diffusion index that measures the scope of inflation pressures also improved. That measure, however, was still showing slightly broader price pressures than pre-pandemic “norms”, suggesting there’s still room for more improvement.”

With the economy’s slow growth trajectory, the central bank has every reason to begin cutting interest rates soon.

Please note: The source of this article is from Sherry Cooper


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