Economic Insights from Dr. Sherry Cooper
It has been just over a year since the Bank of Canada started hiking interest rates. While the economy has remained surprisingly resilient, the housing market has weakened sharply.
The Bank has remained on the sidelines for the past two Governing Council announcement dates, and home sales have edged upward in very tight markets.
There is a rapidly growing housing shortage. As population growth remains strong and immigration targets rise, new home construction cannot keep up with demand. Demand for rental properties is surging, and rents have risen sharply for new tenants.
Another factor that could slow the economy this year is the rise in monthly housing payments. For those with adjustable-rate mortgages, monthly payments have already risen sharply. Most of those with variable-rate loans with a fixed monthly cost has hit their trigger point, and the amount no longer covers any of the principle. Most banks have allowed negative amortization but will require borrowers to return to original 20-year amortizations upon renewal. This could be quite a shock to consumers over the next few years.
The Office for the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is very concerned about the risk associated with these loans. We will be hearing soon from OSFI regarding more restrictions on mortgage lending.
The great news is that inflation is falling quickly, down to only 4.3% in March. The central bank expects inflation to fall to about 3% by the end of this year. So, barring unforeseen inflation pressures, the Bank could pause for the rest of this year. Rate cuts, however, are unlikely until 2024.
The Canadian economy will likely slow as the year progresses. The most likely scenario is a mild recession later this year. As we move into 2024, interest rates will slowly decrease to about 2.5% for the overnight policy rate. The economy will rebound, and the Bank of Canada expects to hit its 2% target on inflation. That might be hard to achieve, given rapidly rising wages and continued inflation expectations.