The Bank of Canada Hiked Rates The Full 50 bps
The Governing Council of the Bank of Canada raised its target for the overnight policy rate by 50 basis points today to 4.25% and signalled that the Council would “consider whether the policy interest rate needs to rise further to bring supply and demand back into balance and return inflation to target.” This is more dovish language than in earlier actions where they asserted that rates would need to rise further. Some have interpreted this new press release to imply that the Bank of Canada will now pause or pivot. I disagree.
I expect there will be additional rate hikes next year, but they will be more measured and not on every decision date. I also feel that the Bank will refrain from cutting the policy rate until 2024.
The Bank told us today that the “longer that consumers and businesses expect inflation to be above the target, the greater the risk that elevated inflation becomes entrenched.” CPI inflation remained at 6.9% in October, “with many of the goods and services Canadians regularly buy showing large price increases. Measures of core inflation remain around 5%. Three-month rates of change in core inflation have come down, an early indicator that price pressures may be losing momentum. However, inflation is still too high, and short-term inflation expectations remain elevated.”
The economy remains in excess demand, and the labour market is very tight. The jobless rate in November fell to 5.1%, and job vacancies increased in September. Wage inflation came in at 5.6% y/y in November for the second consecutive month, marking six straight months of wage inflation above 5%. While headline and core inflation have moderated from their recent peaks, they exceed the 2% target by a large measure.
The Bank will monitor incoming data, especially regarding the overheated labour market where the jobless rate is at historic lows. Housing has slowed sharply in recent months, but as long as labour markets are tight, a slowdown in other sectors will be muted. The Bank now says it expects the economy “to stall” in the current quarter and the first half of next year.
This will likely be the last oversized rate hike this cycle. The Governing Council next meets on January 25. Whether they raise rates will be data-dependent. If they do, it will likely be by 25 bps. Even if they pause at that meeting, it does not rule out additional moves later in the year if excess demand persists. I expect further monetary tightening, the continued bear market in equities, and a further correction in house prices.
Canadian benchmark home prices are already down nearly 10% nationwide. Several chartered banks told us this week that more than 25% of the remaining amortizations for their residential mortgages are 35 years and more. At renewal, these institutions expect to grant mortgages amortized at 25 years, which implies a substantial rise in monthly payments. That may well be three or four years away, but clearly, many households could be pinched unless mortgage rates plunge in the interim. I do not see the policy rate falling to its pre-Covid level of 1.75% over that period because inflation back then was less than 2%, an improbable circumstance as we advance. Although supply constraints may be easing, globalization has peaked. Semiconductors produced in the US will not be as cheap, and many rents, prices, and wages will be very sticky