Canadian Home Prices Continued to Rise As Insufficient Supply Creates Excess Demand

General Mark Goode 15 Oct

Today the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) released statistics showing national existing-home sales rose 0.9% between August and September 2021, posting the first monthly gain since March (see chart below). On a year-over-year (y-o-y) basis, the number of transactions last month was down 17.5%. Nevertheless, it was still the second-highest sales figure ever for the month of September.

“September provided another month’s worth of evidence from all across Canada that housing market conditions are stabilizing near current levels,” said Cliff Stevenson, Chair of CREA. “In some ways that comes as a relief given the volatility of the last year-and-a-half, but the issue is that demand/supply conditions are stabilizing in a place that very few people are happy about. There is still a lot of demand chasing an increasingly scarce number of listings, so this market remains very challenging.”

Housing supply remains a major constraint, forcing many buyers to either pay up for scarce properties or to remain on the sidelines. This is particularly troublesome for first-time homebuyers as mortgage rates are coming under renewed upward pressure as inflation concerns have forced yield curves to steepen and longer-term bond yields to rise worldwide.

 

New Listings

Exacerbating supply problems, the number of newly listed homes fell by 1.6% in September compared to August, as gains in parts of Quebec were swamped by declines in the Lower Mainland, in and around the GTA and in Calgary.

With sales up and new listings down in September, the sales-to-new listings ratio tightened to 75.1% compared to 73.2% in August. The long-term average for the national sales-to-new listings ratio is 54.8%.

Based on a comparison of sales-to-new listings ratio with long-term averages, a small but growing majority of local markets are moving back into seller’s market territory (see chart below). As of September, it was close to a 60/40 split between seller’s and balanced markets.

There were 2.1 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of September 2021, down slightly from 2.2 months in August and 2.3 months in June and July. This is extremely low and indicative of a strong seller’s market at the national level and in most local markets. The long-term average for this measure is more than 5 months.

 

 

Home Prices

In line with tighter market conditions, the Aggregate Composite MLS® Home Price Index (MLS® HPI) accelerated to 1.7% on a month-over-month basis in September 2021.

The non-seasonally adjusted Aggregate Composite MLS® HPI was up 21.5% on a year-over-year basis in September, up a bit from the 21.3% year-over-year gain recorded in August.

Looking across the country, year-over-year price growth is creeping up above 20% in B.C., though it is lower in Vancouver (13.9%), on par with the provincial number in Victoria, and higher in other parts of the province (see table below).

Year-over-year price gains are in the mid-to-high single digits in Alberta and Saskatchewan, while gains are into the low double digits in Manitoba.

Ontario saw year-over-year price growth pushing 25% in September; however–as with B.C.–big, medium and smaller city trends, gains are notably lower in the GTA (19.0%) and Ottawa (16.4%), around the provincial average in Oakville-Milton (26.9%), Hamilton-Burlington (26.5%) and Guelph (26.4%), and considerably higher in many of the smaller markets around the province.

Greater Montreal’s year-over-year price growth remains at a little over 20%, while Quebec City is now at 12.7%. Price growth is running a little above 30% in New Brunswick (higher in Greater Moncton, a little lower in Fredericton and Saint John), while Newfoundland and Labrador is now at 12% year-over-year (a bit lower in St. John’s).

 

 

 

Bottom Line

Canada continues to contend with one of the developed world’s most severe housing shortages. As our borders open to a resurgence of immigration, excess demand for housing will mount. The impediments to a rapid rise in housing supply, both for rent and purchase, are primarily in the planning and approvals process at the municipal level. Liberal Party election promises do not address these issues.

It is noteworthy that while Canada suffers one of the most acute housing shortages, housing affordability is getting worse in many OECD countries (see chart below).

 

 

Adding to the affordability problem, interest rates have bottomed as an inflation-induced selloff in bonds mount despite the assertion of most central banks that inflation is temporary. Very recently, Governor Tiff Macklem admitted that inflation is likely to remain a problem until the end of the year.

Some of the inflation is coming from disruptions on the supply side emanating from COVID-related disruptions, which may work themselves out in time. However, they’re still getting worse, and many suggest the timeline could be much longer than just this year. In addition, extreme weather events and climate change initiatives–both of which are more or less permanent–have also boosted inflation pressure. Consumer demand for goods and housing and business capital expenditures have surged in the face of labour shortages. Wage rates are beginning to rise. All of this has raised prices spilling into next year. Higher interest rates are likely sustainable even though the Bank of Canada and the Federal Reserve will likely hold overnight rates steady for the next year (see charts below).

 

 

Blockbuster September Jobs Report –Further Fuel For Rising Interest Rates

General Mark Goode 8 Oct

 

Blockbuster September Jobs Report–Further Fuel For Rising Interest Rates

 

Statistics Canada released the September Labour Force Survey this morning, providing some unmitigated good news on the jobs front. Employment rose by 157,000 (+0.8%) in September, the fourth consecutive monthly increase. The unemployment rate fell by 0.2 percentage points to 6.9%.

Employment gains in September were concentrated in full-time work and among people in the core working-age group of 25 to 54. Increases were spread across multiple industries and provinces.

Employment gains in the month were split between the public-sector (+78,000; +1.9%) and the private-sector (+98,000; +0.8%).

Employment increased in six provinces in September: Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.

Service-sector increases (+142,000) were led by public administration (+37,000), information, culture and recreation (+33,000) and professional, scientific and technical services (+30,000).

Employment in accommodation and food services fell for the first time in five months (-27,000).

While employment in manufacturing (+22,000) and natural resources (+6,600) increased, there was little overall change in the goods-producing sector.

The gains in September brought employment back to the same level as in February 2020, just before the onset of the pandemic. However, the employment rate—that is, the proportion of the population aged 15 and older employed—was 60.9% in September, 0.9 percentage points lower than in February 2020, due to population growth of 1.4% over the past 19 months.

The number of employed people working less than half their usual hours was little changed in September and remained 218,000 higher (+26.8%) than in February 2020. Total hours worked were up 1.1% in September but were 1.5% below their pre-pandemic level.

Among 15-to-69-year-olds who worked at least half their usual hours, the proportion working from home was little changed in September at 23.8%. The ratio who worked from home was lowest in Saskatchewan (12.3%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (12.8%), and highest in Ontario (28.7%). Overall, at the national level, the proportion of workers who worked from home was higher in urban areas (25.2%) than in rural areas (15.9%).

In September 2021, 4.1 million Canadians who worked at least half their usual hours worked from home, similar to the level recorded in September 2020.

 

 

The unemployment rate declined for the fourth consecutive month in September, falling 0.2 percentage points to 6.9%, the lowest rate since the onset of the pandemic. The unemployment rate peaked at 13.7% in May 2020 and has trended downward since, with some short-term increases during the late fall of 2020 and spring of 2021, coinciding with the tightening of public health restrictions. In the months leading up to the pandemic, the unemployment rate had hovered around historic lows and was 5.7% in February 2020.

The adjusted unemployment rate—which includes those who wanted a job but did not look for one—was 8.9% in September, down 0.2 percentage points from one month earlier.

Long-term unemployment—the number of people continuously unemployed for 27 weeks or more—was little changed in September. There were 389,000 long-term unemployed, more than double the number in February 2020.

The ability of the long-term unemployed to transition to employment may be influenced by several factors, including their level of education and current labour market conditions. For example, those with no post-secondary education face a labour market where employment in occupations not requiring post-secondary education was 287,000 lower in September 2021 than in September 2019 (not seasonally adjusted).

 

 

Bottom Line 

The Bank of Canada has repeatedly suggested that it would not begin to tighten monetary policy until the economy returned to full capacity utilization, which they estimate will not be until at least the second half of next year. Employment will need to surpass pre-pandemic levels before complete recovery is declared because the population had grown since the start of the crisis 19 months ago.

Substantial job losses remain in the hardest-hit sectors. The chart below shows the employment change in percentage terms by sector compared with February 2020.

Sectors where remote work has been widespread–such as professional, scientific and technical services, public administration, finance, insurance and real estate–have seen a net gain in employment. However, in high-touch sectors that were deemed nonessential, the jobs recovery has been far more constrained. This is especially true in agriculture, accommodation and food services, and recreation. Ironically, these sectors have high job vacancy rates as many formerly employed here are reluctant to return. Enhanced benefits and compensation in these sectors will help.

Just this week, the BoC Governor Tiff Macklem reiterated that widespread inflation pressures are likely to remain at least until the end of this year. Most are reflective of global supply chain disruptions as well as extreme weather events. Just how long these will last is uncertain, but tighter monetary policy would have little impact on this type of inflation.

Nevertheless, bond markets have sold off worldwide in response to inflation fears and the annual US debt-ceiling antics. The final chart below shows the steepening of the Canadian yield curve since one year ago. The 5-year bond yield has risen sharply over that period, from 0.378% to a current level today of 1.205%. It is no surprise that 5-year fixed mortgage rates are rising. 

 

 

August Employment Report Showed Continuing Recovery

General Mark Goode 10 Sep

 

This morning, Statistics Canada provided us with some much-needed good news on the economic front following last week’s surprisingly dismal Q2 GDP report. Canada’s labour market continued its recovery in August, especially in the hardest-hit food services and accommodation sectors. The August Labour Force Survey (LFS) data reflect conditions during the week of August 15 to 21. By then, most regions of Canada had lifted many of the Covid-related restrictions. However, there were capacity restrictions in such indoor locations as restaurants, gyms, retail stores and entertainment venues. Also, for the first time since March 2020, border restrictions were lifted for fully vaccinated non-essential travellers from the US.

However, the reopening of the Canadian economy has been creaky, owing to supply constraints and difficulty in filling job vacancies in sectors that require high-contact interfaces, especially with the concern regarding a fourth wave of the delta variant. Nevertheless, today’s LFS indicated that employment grew last month by 90,200, the third consecutive monthly gain, further closing the pandemic gap. Employment is now within 156,000 (-0.8%) of its February level, the closest since the onset of the pandemic. Moreover, most of the net new jobs were in full-time work. Increases were mainly in the service sector, led by accommodation and food services.

 

 

The jobless rate fell from 7.5% in July to 7.1% in August. The unemployment rate peaked at 13.7% in May 2020 and has trended downward since, despite some short-term increases during the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021. In the months leading up to the pandemic, the unemployment rate had hovered around historic lows and was 5.7% in February 2020.

The adjusted unemployment rate—which includes discouraged workers–those who wanted a job but did not look for one—was 9.1% in August, down 0.4 percentage points from one month earlier.

Employment increased in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia in August. All other provinces recorded little or no change. For the third consecutive month, British Columbia was the lone province with employment above its pre-pandemic level. Compared with February 2020, the employment gap was largest in Prince Edward Island (-3.4%) and New Brunswick (-2.7%). The table below shows the jobless rates by province.

 

 

Bottom Line 

The Bank of Canada this week once again suggested that it would not begin to tighten monetary policy until the economy returned to full capacity utilization, which they estimate will not be until at least the second half of next year. Employment will need to surpass pre-pandemic levels before complete recovery is declared because the population had grown since the start of the crisis 18 months ago.

Although August was another solid month for the jobs market, there is a wide disparity across sectors of the job market in the degree to which they have recovered from the effects of the pandemic. The table below shows the employment change in percentage terms by sector compared with February 2020.

Sectors where remote work has been widespread–such as professional, scientific and technical services, public administration, finance, insurance and real estate–have seen a net gain in employment. However, in high-touch sectors that were deemed nonessential, the jobs recovery has been far more constrained. This is especially true in agriculture, accommodation and food services, and recreation.

 

Bank of Canada Responds To Weak Q2 Economy–Holding Policy Steady

General Mark Goode 9 Sep

As we await the quarterly economic forecast in next month’s Monetary Policy Report, the Bank of Canada acknowledged that the Q2 GDP report, released last week, caught them off-guard. In today’s policy statement, the Governing Council of the Bank said, “In Canada, GDP contracted by about 1 percent in the second quarter, weaker than anticipated in the Bank’s July Monetary Policy Report (MPR). This largely reflects a contraction in exports, due in part to supply chain disruptions, especially in the auto sector. Housing market activity pulled back from recent high levels, largely as expected. Consumption, business investment and government spending all contributed positively to growth, with domestic demand growing at more than 3 percent. Employment rebounded through June and July, with hard-to-distance sectors hiring as public health restrictions eased. This is reducing unevenness in the labour market, although considerable slack remains and some groups – particularly low-wage workers – are still disproportionately affected. The Bank continues to expect the economy to strengthen in the second half of 2021, although the fourth wave of COVID-19 infections and ongoing supply bottlenecks could weigh on the recovery” (see chart below).

 

 

Bank Says CPI Inflation Boosted By Temporary Factors–Maybe

Financial conditions remain highly accommodative around the globe. And the Bank today continued to assert that the rise in inflation above 3% is expected, “boosted by base-year effects, gasoline prices, and pandemic-related supply bottlenecks. These factors pushing up inflation are expected to be transitory, but their persistence and magnitude are uncertain and will be monitored closely. Wage increases have been moderate to date, and medium-term inflation expectations remain well-anchored. Core measures of inflation have risen but by less than the CPI.”

The Governing Council again stated the Canadian economy still has considerable excess capacity, and the recovery continues to require extraordinary monetary policy support. “We remain committed to holding the policy interest rate at the effective lower bound until economic slack is absorbed so that the 2 percent inflation target is sustainably achieved.” Concerning forward guidance, the Bank said, “We remain committed to holding the policy interest rate at the effective lower bound until economic slack is absorbed so that the 2 percent inflation target is sustainably achieved. In the Bank’s July projection, this happens in the second half of 2022.” This seems to be a placeholder statement, allowing the Bank to reassess the outlook next month, possibly delaying the guidance if the economy continues to perform below their July projection.

Similarly, the Bank maintains its Quantitative Easing program at the current pace of purchasing $2 billion per week of Government of Canada (GoC) bonds, keeping interest rates low across the yield curve. “Decisions regarding future adjustments to the pace of net bond purchases will be guided by Governing Council’s ongoing assessment of the strength and durability of the recovery. We will continue to provide the appropriate degree of monetary policy stimulus to support the recovery and achieve the inflation objective”.

Bottom Line

Only time will tell if the Bank of Canada is correct in believing that inflation pressures are temporary. Financial markets will remain sensitive to incoming data, but bond markets seem willing to accept their view for now. The 5-year GoC bond yield has edged down from its recent peak of 1.0% posted on June 28th to a current level of .80%. In contrast, the Canadian dollar had weakened significantly since late June when it was over US$0.825 to US$0.787 this morning. Clearly, the Bank of Canada is committed to keeping Canadian interest rates low for the foreseeable future.

The next Bank of Canada policy decision date is October 27th. Stay tuned for the Canadian employment report this Friday.

Housing Dampened Economy in Q2

General Mark Goode 7 Sep

Housing Dampened Economy in Q2

 

This morning’s Stats Canada release showed that the economy unexpectedly contracted in the second quarter by 1.1%, down from the revised 5.5% gain in the first three months of the year. The Canadian dollar dipped on the news to $.7921 as questions of resiliency in the face of the delta variant mount. Economists in a Bloomberg survey were anticipating a 2.5% expansion. Adding to the disappointment, economic growth fell a further 0.4% in July, according to a preliminary estimate.

The weak GDP data reduces the odds of the Bank of Canada tapering their bond purchases at their policy meeting on September 8th. It also highlights the output gap–the degree to which the economy remains below full economic capacity–remains a big issue. The Bank has forecast the gap to close by the middle of 2022. While that remains uncertain, we continue to expect growth to rebound in the third quarter.

Increases in investment in business inventories, government final consumption expenditures, business investment in machinery and equipment, and investment in new home construction and renovation were not sufficient to offset the declines in exports (-4.0%) and homeownership transfer costs (-17.7%), which include all costs associated with the transfer of a residential asset from one owner to another.

Housing investment reshapes the economy

Since the third quarter of 2020, housing investment has emerged as the predominant contributor to economic activities and capital stock—with residential capital stock surpassing non-residential capital stock. Moreover, the average housing investment for the previous four quarters was 17% higher than the average over the last five years.

Housing Investment

 

 

Both new construction and renovations—the components of residential capital stock—have shown sustained growth since the third quarter of 2020. Because of the ability to work from home, savings from less travel and reduced participation in other activities, low mortgage rates and increases in home equity lines of credit, spending has continued to increase on new houses (+3.2%) and home renovations (+2.4%).

After taking on $62.3 billion of residential mortgage debt in the last half of 2020, households added $84.2 billion more residential housing debt in the first half of 2021.

Supply chain disruptions continue to impact motor vehicles

Shortages of microchips and other inputs curtailed trade in motor vehicles and domestic consumption. Household purchases of new passenger cars (-7.2%) and trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles (-1.6%) decreased, while business investment in medium and heavy trucks, buses and other motor vehicles fell 34.2%. Longer plant shutdowns because of international supply chain disruptions have constrained imports of parts and led to significant decreases in exports. Low production of motor vehicles and parts resulted in an 18.9% drop in exports of passenger cars and light trucks and an 8.7% decline in tires, motor vehicle engines and parts exports. Inventories had another quarter of significant drawdowns in response to supply needs.

Double-digit household savings rate continues

The modest rise in household spending (+0.7%, in nominal terms) was outpaced by growth in disposable income (+2.2%), leaving households with more net savings than in the previous quarter. Household incomes were primarily bolstered by employees’ rising compensation and increasing transfers received from the government, which were partially offset by a 2.8% rise in personal income taxes.

Consequently, the savings rate reached 14.2%—the fifth consecutive quarter with a double-digit savings rate—as various pandemic-related restrictions and uncertainty continued to limit the scope of household consumption. The household savings rate is aggregated across all income brackets; in general, savings rates are greater in higher income brackets.

 

 

Bottom Line

Today’s release is, in some respects, ‘ancient history.’ It is still widely expected that the economy will rebound in the third quarter. With the surge in household savings and continued growth in personal disposable income, pent-up demand is likely to boost consumption for the remainder of this year. All eyes will be on the August employment report released Friday, September 10th. The Bank of Canada will likely continue to proceed cautiously. Another tapering of the bond-buying program will come under scrutiny, and forward guidance will continue to suggest no rate hikes until the second half of next year.

Annual Inflations Hits 3.7% in Canada – A New Election Issue

General Mark Goode 19 Aug

 

Annual Inflation Hits 3.7% in Canada–A New Election Issue

This morning’s Stats Canada release showed that the July CPI surged to a 3.7% year-over-year pace, well above the 3.1% pace recorded in June. This is now the fourth consecutive month in which inflation is above the1% to 3% target band of the Bank of Canada. And given the flash election, opposition parties are already making hay. “The numbers released today make it clear that under Justin Trudeau, Canadians are experiencing a cost of living crisis,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said in a statement. He went on to suggest that the Liberal government is stoking inflation with its debt-financed government spending programs.

While it is true that deficit spending has surged during the pandemic, the same is also true for nearly every country in the world. Moreover, accelerating inflation is a global phenomenon and most central banks believe it to be temporary. Certainly, Tiff Macklem is firmly of that view, as is the Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Supply disruptions and base effects have largely caused the rise in inflation. Semiconductor production, for example, slumped during the 2020 lockdowns, and then couldn’t be ramped up fast enough when demand for cars and electronics returned, leading the prices of new and used autos to rise at a record pace. Prices for airfares and hotel stays also jumped. Companies found themselves short of workers as they reopened, leading some to offer bonuses or boost wages and subsequently raise prices for consumers.

Central bankers believe that the price pressures are transitory, representing temporary shocks associated with the reopening of the economy. Lumber prices, for example, spiked when demand for new homes returned and have since normalized (see the chart below). To be sure, above-target inflation has heightened uncertainty. The central banks do not want to choke off the economic recovery through misplaced inflation fears. Many Canadians remain out of work, and long-term unemployment is still very high. Moreover, the recent surge of the delta variant proves that the recovery is uncertain.

Governor Tiff Macklem, whose latest forecasts show inflation creeping up to 3.9% in the third quarter before easing at the end of the year, has warned against overreacting to the “temporary” spike.

Shelter Prices Rising Fastest

Prices rose faster year over year in six of the eight major components of Canadian inflation in July, with shelter prices contributing the most to the all-items increase. Conversely, prices for clothing and footwear and alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and recreational cannabis slowed on a year-over-year basis in July compared with June.
Year over year, gasoline prices rose less in July (+30.9%) than in June (+32.0%). A base-year effect continued to impact the gasoline index, as prices in July 2020 increased 4.4% on a month-over-month basis when many businesses and services reopened.
In July 2021, gasoline prices increased 3.5% month over month, as oil production by OPEC+ (countries from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries Plus) remained below pre-pandemic levels though global demand increased.
The homeowners’ replacement cost index, which is related to the price of new homes, continued to trend upward, rising 13.8% year over year in July, the largest yearly increase since October 1987.
Similarly, the other owned accommodation expenses index, which includes commission fees on the sale of real estate, was up 13.4% year over year in July.

Year-over-year price growth for goods rose at a faster pace in July (+5.0%) than in June (+4.5%), with durable goods (+5.0%) accelerating the most. The purchase of passenger vehicles index contributed the most to the increase, rising 5.5% year over year in July. The gain was partially attributable to the global shortage of semiconductor chips.
Prices for upholstered furniture rose 13.4% year over year in July, largely due to lower supply and higher input costs.

Core Measures
The average of core inflation readings, a better gauge of underlying price pressures, rose to 2.47% in July, the highest since 2009.
Monthly, prices rose 0.6% versus a consensus estimate of 0.3%. Rising costs to own a home are one of the biggest contributors to the elevated inflation rate, following a surge in real-estate prices over the past year.
Bottom Line

Today’s inflation data likely did little to alter the Bank of Canada’s view that above-target inflation will be a transitory phenomenon. They are already ahead of most central banks in tapering the stimulus coming from quantitative easing. They do not expect to start increasing interest rates until the labour markets have returned to full employment, which they judge to occur in the second half of 2022. In the meantime, pent-up demand in Canada is huge as people tap into their involuntary savings during the lockdown to pay higher prices at restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations. Financial markets appear to be sanguine about the prospect for rate hikes, as bond yields have been trading in a very narrow range.

 

 

Big Question – Will inflation Be Temporary – Or Are Central Banks Wrong?

General Mark Goode 14 Jul

Bank of Canada ‘On the Vanguard’ of Unwinding Stimulus

The Bank of Canada raised its inflation forecast in the newly released July Monetary Policy Report (MPR), making it one of the most hawkish central banks in the world. The Bank announced its third action to reduce its emergency bond-buying stimulus program by one-third. The central bank was among the first from the advanced economies to shift to a less expansionary policy last April when it accelerated the timetable for a possible interest-rate increase and pared back its bond purchases. In today’s press release, the Bank announced it would adjust its quantitative easing (QE) program again to a target pace of $2 billion per week of Government of Canada bond purchases–down $1 billion from its prior target of $3 billion per week. This puts upward pressure on bond yields, all other things constant. No doubt, the federal government’s funding of the enormous Covid-related budget deficits has been abetted by the central bank’s bond-buying.

The pace of purchases of Canadian government bonds was as high as $5 billion last year. The central bank acquired a net $320 billion of the securities since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The bank owns about 44% of outstanding Canadian government bonds.

The Bank of Canada has said it wants to stop adding to its holdings of government bonds before it turns its attention to debating rate increases. Still, officials chose not to accelerate the projected timeline for a possible hike today.

In holding the overnight rate at the effective lower bound of .25%, the Governing Council reaffirmed its “extraordinary forward guidance” that the Canadian economy still has considerable excess capacity. The recovery continues to require extraordinary monetary policy support. “We remain committed to holding the policy interest rate at the effective lower bound until economic slack is absorbed so that the 2% inflation target is sustainably achieved,” the central bank said in the policy statement. In the Bank’s July projection, this happens sometime in the second half of 2022.

Swaps trading suggests investors are fully pricing in a rate hike over the next 12 months and a total of four over the next two years, which would leave Canada with one of the highest policy rates among advanced economies. This puts the Bank of Canada ahead of the Fed in raising interest rates. Chair Powell told Congress today that the US economy isn’t ready for bond tapering. “Reaching the standard of ‘substantial further progress’ is still a ways off,” he said in prepared remarks. In the U.S., investors aren’t pricing in any rate hike over the next year and only two over the next two years.

July Monetary Policy Report

The Bank revised its forecast for Canadian GDP growth this year from 6.5% in the April MPR to 6.0% because of the more restrictive third-wave pandemic lockdown in the second quarter. Growth is now expected to pick up strongly in the third quarter of this year. Consumer confidence has returned to pre-pandemic levels, and a high share of the eligible population is vaccinated. As the economy reopens, consumption is expected to lead the rebound, increasing spending on services such as transportation, recreation, and food and accommodation.

Housing resales have moderated from historically high levels but remain elevated (Chart below). Other areas of housing activity—such as new construction and renovation—remain strong, supported by high disposable incomes, low borrowing rates and the pandemic-related desire for more living space.

CPI Inflation Boosted By Temporary Factors

The Bank revised up its inflation forecast for this year but asserted once again that inflation would return to 2% in 2022. This is a controversial call consistent with central-bank mantras around the world. The BoC said, “Three sets of factors are leading to this temporary strength. First, gasoline prices have risen from very low levels a year ago and are above their pre-pandemic levels, lifting inflation. Second, other prices that had fallen last year with plummeting demand are now recovering with the reopening of the economy and the release of pent-up demand. Third, supply constraints, including shipping bottlenecks and the global shortage of semiconductors, are pushing up the prices of goods such as motor vehicles.

The BoC expects CPI inflation to ease by the start of 2022 as the temporary factors related to the pandemic fade. Economic slack becomes the primary factor influencing the projection for inflation dynamics thereafter. The uncertainty around the outlook for the output gap and inflation remains high. Because of this, the estimated timing for when slack is absorbed is highly imprecise. In the projection, this occurs sometime in the second half of 2022. After declining to 2% during 2022, inflation is expected to rise modestly in 2023 as the economy moves into excess demand. The excess demand and resultant increase in inflation to above target are expected to be temporary. They are a consequence of Governing Council’s commitment to keeping the policy interest rate at the effective lower bound until economic slack is absorbed so that the 2% inflation target is sustainably achieved.

Inflation is expected to return toward the target in 2024. The projection is consistent with medium- and long-term inflation expectations remaining well-anchored at the 2% target. Both businesses and consumers view price pressures as elevated in the near term. A large majority of respondents to the summer 2021 Business Outlook Survey now expect inflation to be above 2% on average over the next two years. Nonetheless, firms view higher commodity prices, supply chain bottlenecks, policy stimulus and the release of pent-up demand as largely temporary factors boosting inflation higher in the near term.

Bottom Line

Only time will tell if the Bank of Canada is correct in believing that inflation pressures are temporary. Financial markets will remain sensitive to incoming data, but for now, bond markets seem willing to accept their view. The 5-year GoC bond yield has edged down from its recent peak of 1.0% posted on June 28th to a current level of .936%. As well, the Canadian dollar has weakened a bit, to US$0.7993, since the release this morning of the BoC policy statement. The loonie, however, remains among the strongest currencies this year vis a vis the US dollar.

The Slow down in Canadian Housing continued in May

General Mark Goode 15 Jun

The Slowdown In Canadian Housing Continued in May

Today the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) released statistics showing national existing home sales fell 7.4% nationally from April to May 2021, building on the 11% decline in April. Over the same period, the number of newly listed properties fell 6.4%, and the MLS Home Price Index rose 1.0%, a marked deceleration from previous months.

Activity nonetheless remains historically high, but in contrast to March’s all-time record, it is now running closer to levels seen in the second half of 2020 (see chart below). Month-over-month declines in sales activity were observed in close to 80% of all local markets. It was a mixed bag of results, with a slowdown in sales observed in most large markets across Canada.

“While housing markets across Canada remain very active, we now have two months of moderating activity in the books, and that goes for demand, supply and prices,” stated Cliff Stevenson, Chair of CREA. “More and more, there is anecdotal evidence of offer fatigue and frustration among buyers, and the urgency to lock down a place to ride out COVID would also be expected to fade at this point given where we are with the pandemic.”

New Listings
The number of newly listed homes declined by 6.4% in May compared to April. New listings were down in about 70% of all local markets in May.

The national sales-to-new listings ratio was 75.4% in May 2021, down slightly from 76.2% posted in April. The long-term average for the national sales-to-new listings ratio is 54.6%, so it remains historically high; although, it has been moderating since peaking at 90.7% back in January.

Based on a comparison of sales-to-new listings ratio with long-term averages, only about a quarter of all local markets were in balanced market territory in May, measured as being within one standard deviation of their long-term average. The other three-quarters of markets were above long-term norms, in many cases well above.

As the chart below shows, Edmonton was one market in balance, and the Greater Vancouver Area was moving closer to balance, but others remain a seller’s market.

There were 2.1 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of May 2021, up from a record-low 1.7 months in March but still well below the long-term average for this measure of over 5 months.

Home Prices

The Aggregate Composite MLS® Home Price Index (MLS® HPI) rose 1% month-over-month in May 2021 – a noticeable deceleration. The most recent deceleration in month-over-month price growth has come from the single-family space compared to the more affordable townhome and apartment segments.
The non-seasonally adjusted Aggregate Composite MLS® HPI was up 24.4% on a year-over-year basis in May. Based on data back to 2005, this was another record year-over-year increase; although, it is not likely to go much higher.

While the largest year-over-year gains continue to be posted across Ontario, this is also where month-over-month price growth has been slowing the most. Meanwhile, price growth has continued to accelerate in some other parts of the country, thus reducing the year-over-year growth disparity between Ontario and other provinces.

Bottom Line

The near-uniform nature of the housing market activity (in what is usually a highly regionalized market) is still a key feature of this cycle. Indeed, 22 of 26 markets tracked by CREA saw sales fall in May, while all but one market saw the average transaction price up by double-digits from a year ago (sorry, Thunder Bay). Among the tightest markets in the country based on the sales-to-new listings ratio are the Okanagan and Kawartha Lakes; cottage country is still on fire.

The two-month slowdown in Canadian housing is welcome news. The OECD recently released a report showing that New Zealand, Canada and Sweden have the frothiest housing markets in the world. The UK and the US are near the top as well. Clearly, Covid led many around the world to alter their abode, driving prices higher almost everywhere.

Bank of Canada Holds Overnight Rate Steady

General Mark Goode 9 Jun

Bank of Canada Holds Rates and QE Steady–Asserting That Both the Upside in Inflation and the Downside in GDP is Temporary

The Bank also noted that “Recent jobs data show that workers in contact-sensitive sectors have once again been most affected. The employment rate remains well below its pre-pandemic level, with low-wage workers, youth and women continuing to bear the brunt of job losses.” The chart below shows that the labour market is still below the Bank’s target for a full recovery.

.” Note that the April MPR projected 3.5% growth in Q2 GDP, while the consensus forecast currently sits at 0% for Q2, with downside risk dampening economic activity…largely as anticipated.” Concerning Q2, the third wave lockdowns are “rising confidence and resilient demand” and that the details of the report point to “a robust 5.6 percent appears to be little changed despite the April Monetary Policy Report (MPR) overestimating Q1 GDP growth by 1.4 percentage points. Indeed, today’s Policy Statement notes that Q1 GDP growth was “domestic economy the Bank’s view regarding the

from advanced economies to shift to a less expansionary policy in April when it accelerated the timetable for a possible interest-rate increase and pared back its bond purchases.  among the first The Bank of Canada left the benchmark overnight policy rate unchanged at 0.25% and maintained its current pace of GoC bond purchases at its current pace. The Governing Council renewed its pledge to refrain from raising rates until the damage from the pandemic is fully repaired. The $3 billion weekly pace of bond-buying–known as quantitative easing–will decline as the recovery proceeds. In April, at their last meeting, the Bank reduced the pace of GoC bond buying from $4 billion to $3 billion per week. The central bank was

Bank of Canada Upbeat Over the Medium Term
“With vaccinations proceeding at a faster pace, and provincial containment restrictions on an easing path over the summer, the Canadian economy is expected to rebound strongly, led by consumer spending. Housing market activity is expected to moderate but remain elevated.”

On the inflation front, there were no surprises. The Statement says that inflation has risen to the top of the 1-3% control range due to base effects and gasoline prices. The rise in the core measures is blamed on temporary factors as well. The Bank anticipates headline inflation will stay around 3% through the summer before pulling back later in the year.

On the cautious side, the BoC highlights that the labour market still has a way to go before healing. There’s also uncertainty surrounding COVID variants.

The concluding paragraph didn’t change much. It reiterates that there “remains considerable excess capacity” and that policy rates will stay at the lower bound until “economic slack is absorbed,” which the April MPR said was in 2022H2. Concerning further tapering, the “assessment of the strength and durability of the recovery” will guide that decision.

The C$ barely garnered a mention yet again, with the Statement noting the recent gains and accompanying rise in commodity prices. The market might view the lack of concern here as a green light for further strength.

Bottom Line

The Bank of Canada is looking through “transitory” ups in inflation and downs in GDP. With vaccination rates continuing to ramp up significantly, and provinces beginning a gradual reopening process, the economy will rebound substantially beginning in June.

Indeed, with the near-term growth outlook increasingly bright, concerns have shifted to rising production input prices and the prospect for a sharp recovery in consumer demand to stoke inflation pressures. For now, the BoC is positing that near-term increases in consumer price growth rates will prove ‘transitory.’ But there have also been signs of harder-to-dismiss firming in most measures of underlying price growth gauges, including the BoC’s own preferred core measures edging up towards or above the 2% inflation target.

July’s meeting will likely be a bit more interesting with the Bank issuing more details in another Monetary Policy Report. We don’t see any need for dramatic forecast revisions at this stage, and the BoC’s guidance that rates might have to start increasing in the second half of next year remains appropriate. It looks like the main question will be around further tapering of the BoC’s asset purchases. The BoC didn’t signal an imminent taper (we didn’t think it would) but said decisions regarding the pace of purchases would be guided by its assessment of the strength and durability of the recovery. If incoming data aligns with the BoC’s forecasts, we could see it reduce weekly bond-buying again in July to $2 billion per week from $3 billion. If not, September might serve as a backup as the bank seeks to prevent its footprint in the bond market (nearly 44% at the end of May) from becoming too large while at the same time setting itself up to shift QE to reinvestment only well in advance of the first interest rate hike.

Courtesy of

Dr. Sherry Cooper

 

 

 

 

 

 

Housing Drove the Economic Expansion in Q1

General Mark Goode 2 Jun

Housing Drove the Economic Expansion in Q1

This morning’s Stats Canada release showed that the economy grew at a 5.6% annualized rate in the first quarter, after a revised 9.3% pace in the final quarter of last year.  That was somewhat below economists’ expectations. Housing investment grew at an annualized 43% pace, by far the biggest impetus of the expansion. Residential investment now makes up a record proportion of GDP (see chart below). Compared with the first quarter of 2020, housing investment was up 26.5% and led the recovery. Growth in housing was attributable to an improved job market, higher compensation of employees, and low mortgage rates. After adding $63.6 billion of residential mortgage debt in the last half of 2020, households added $29.6 billion more in the first quarter of 2021.

Residential investment is a component of the Gross Domestic Product accounts and is technically called ‘gross fixed capital formation in residential structures’ by Statistics Canada.  Investment in residential structures is comprised of three components: 1) new construction, 2) renovations and 3) ownership transfer costs. The first two components are obvious.

The home-resale market’s contribution to economic activity is reflected in ‘ownership transfer costs.’ These costs are as follows:

  • real estate commissions–including realtors and mortgage brokerage fees;
  • land transfer taxes;
  • legal costs (fees paid to notaries, surveyors, experts etc.); and
  • file review costs (inspection and surveying).
The second chart below shows the quarterly percent change in the components of housing investment in inflation-adjusted terms. This chart illustrates the surge in existing home sales since the second quarter of last year (reflected in the red bar). Although the resale market has slowed since the third quarter of last year, it remains a driving force of economic expansion.

Growth in housing investment was broad-based. New construction rose 8.7% (quarter-over-quarter), largely driven by detached units in Ontario and Quebec. Ownership transfer costs increased 13.1%, with the rise in resale activities. Working from home and extra savings from reduced travel heightened the demand for, and scope of, home renovations, which grew 7.0% in the first quarter.

The increase in GDP in the first quarter of 2021 reflected the continued strength of the economy, influenced by favourable mortgage rates, continued government transfers to households and businesses, and an improved labour market. These factors boosted the demand for housing investment while rising input costs heightened construction costs.The GDP implicit price index, which reflects the overall price of domestically produced goods and services, rose 2.9% in the first quarter, driven by higher prices for construction materials and energy used in Canada and exported. The sharp increase in prices boosted nominal GDP (+4.3%). Compensation of employees rose 2.1%, led by construction and information and cultural industries, and surpassed the pre-pandemic level recorded at the end of 2019.

Strength in oil and gas extraction, manufacturing of petroleum products, and construction industries led to a higher gross operating surplus for non-financial corporations (+11.5%). Higher earnings from commissions and fees bolstered the operating surplus of financial corporations (+3.9%), coinciding with the sizeable increases in the value and volume of stocks traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).

Most aspects of final sales were solid in Q1, with consumers a bit stronger than expected (2.8% a.r.), government adding (5.8%), and net exports also contributing. In contrast, business investment was one real source of disappointment, with equipment spending surprisingly falling. But the biggest drag came from a drop in inventories, with this factor alone cutting growth 1.4 ppts in Q1, and versus expectations, it could add a touch. The good news is that this should reverse in Q2, supporting activity in the current quarter.

On the monthly figures, there were few big surprises. March’s initial flash estimate of +0.9% was nudged up in the official estimate to +1.1% as the economy began to re-open from the second wave. Tougher COVID public health rules slammed the brakes on Canada’s economy in April. Statistics Canada estimates gross domestic product shrank 0.8% in the month, representing the first contraction in a year and a weak handoff heading into the second quarter. April may well be followed by a soft May. Even so, we still expect a strong June will keep Q2 roughly flat overall and look for robust Q3 growth.

Bottom Line

In many respects, Q1 data is ancient history. We know with the resurgence in lockdowns, growth in Q3 will at best be flat. In the hopes that vaccinations will accelerate and COVID case numbers will continue to fall across the country, Q4 will likely see a strong resurgence in growth.