2019 Closes Without a Bank of Canada Rate Cut
The Bank of Canada’s overnight lending rate will end the year exactly where it started—unchanged at 1.75%.
As was widely expected, the Bank of Canada decided once again to leave rates on hold as it continues to assess the need for monetary policy easing given a strong domestic economy against a background of global headwinds.
The BoC’s Governing Council noted that the Canadian economy continues to perform well, with growth in the third quarter of 1.3%, moderately expanding consumer spending, along with rising wages and investment spending. Additionally, inflation remains right around the Bank’s target of 2%, “consistent with an economy operating near capacity,” the council added.
“Future interest rate decisions will be guided by the Bank’s continuing assessment of the adverse impact of trade conflicts against the sources of resilience in the Canadian economy—notably consumer spending and housing activity.”
The BoC is bucking a global trend of central banks that have been easing monetary policy within the last quarter—more than 40 to date, the most notable being the U.S. Federal Reserve, which has cut rates three times this year.
Some believe the longer the Bank resists a rate cut, the more risk that it may need to act more aggressively at a future date.
“I continue to believe that at some point the BoC will have to drop rates to weaken the Loonie and stimulate our moribund rates of economic growth, but the Bank remains determined not to cut until inflation materially weakens,” mortgage expert Dave Larock wrote in a blog post prior to the BoC decision. “Of course, if and when this happens, the BoC may then have to lower by more than it would have done had it acted preemptively. That, however, is a risk it appears willing to take.”
BoC Rate Cut in Store for 2020?
Earlier this summer, a rate cut (or two) from the Bank of Canada seemed all but guaranteed. But current economic conditions are causing many economists to constantly re-write their forecasts. Some now foresee another full year of no rate movement.
“While we can’t predict developments in the U.S.-China trade war with any real confidence, the resurgence of the housing market—with the sales-to-new listing ratio now pointing to house price inflation accelerating to over 10%—suggests that the Bank will keep policy unchanged throughout 2020 and probably longer,” wrote Stephen Brown, senior economist at Capital Economics.
Market expectations are for at least one quarter-point rate cut by mid-2020. Overnight Index Swap markets are currently pricing in a roughly 70% chance of a rate cut by July, according to Westpac.
Some, however, are calling for monetary policy easing earlier in the year.
“Our assumption has been that the BoC’s patience will eventually run out, with persistent trade uncertainty and below-trend growth around the turn of the year prompting a rate cut in early-2020,” economists at RBC Economics wrote in a research note. “Rising odds of a U.S.-China trade deal has pared back market expectations for a rate cut.