Canadian manufacturing sales increased 1 per cent from April to March, as sales of transportation equipment and food sales flourished. Overall, sales were higher in 16 of 21 manufacturing sub-sectors, reflecting broad-based strength in the Canadian economy. 

The BC manufacturing sector continued to be a significant driver of provincial growth in March, posting a 2.9 per cent increase in sales, led by a 10.5 per cent jump in wood products. On a year-over-year basis,  total manufacturing sales were up 4.7 per cent.  While manufacturing has been one of the stand-out sectors in the BC economy since last summer, headwinds from US trade policy, particularly new tariffs on softwood lumber, could take the air of the sectors in coming months.

 

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Vancouver, BC – May 15, 2017. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) that a total of 9,865 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in April, down 23.9 per cent from the same period last year. Total sales dollar volume was $7.19 billion, down 25.4 per cent from April 2016. The average MLS® residential price in the province was $728,955, a 2 per cent decrease from the same period last year.

“BC home sales are on an upward trend this spring, led by a sharp increase in consumer demand in the Lower Mainland," said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of home sales was over 106,000 units in April, significantly above the five-year SAAR for April of 89,000 units.

The supply of homes for sale declined 17 per cent from April 2016. On a seasonally adjusted basis, active residential listings have declined 50 per cent since 2012 and are now at their lowest level in over 20 years. The imbalance between supply and demand is continuing to drive home prices higher in most regions, further eroding affordability.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume was down 31.8 per cent to $21.3 billion, when compared with the same period in 2016. Residential unit sales declined 25.0 per cent to 30,757 units, while the average MLS® residential price was down 9.2 per cent to $692,220.

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The total value of Canadian building permits declined 5.8 per cent to $7 billion in March, the second consecutive monthly decline.

BC posted the largest decrease at the provincial level due to fewer permit applications for multiple family residential projects, slowed perhaps by the record number of units already under construction.  The total value of permits fell 21.4 per cent on a monthly basis and 11.4 per cent year-over-year. Residential permits were down close 26 per cent on both a monthly basis and 14 per cent lower year-over year while non-residential permits were down 4 per cent on a monthly basis and 2.5 per cent year-over-year.

Construction intentions were actually higher across three of BC's four census metropolitan areas (CMA). Permits in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA increased 53 per cent from February to March and were up 29 per cent year-over-year. The Victoria CMA saw permit values increase 10 per cent on a monthly basis but were 6 per cent lower year-over-year. In the Kelowna CMA, permits rose 60 per cent on a monthly basis were more than triple the value in March 2016. Conversely, the Vancouver CMA, where construction is probably at capacity, posted a 40 per cent monthly decline in permit activity on a monthly basis and was down 32 per cent year-over-year.

 

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Canadian housing starts declined to 214,098 units at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) in April following a surge in new home construction in March that saw a pace of over 250,000 units SAAR.  The six-month trend in Canadian housing starts continues to trend higher at about 214,000 units SAAR.

In BC, total housing starts were 44,604 units SAAR, a 1 per cent dip from the previous month and 1 per cent higher compared to April 2016.  Single detached starts declined 9 per cent month-over-month but were 16 per cent higher year-over-year. Multiple unit starts increased 2 per cent month-over-month and were down 3 per cent year-over-year.

Looking at census metropolitan areas (CMA) in BC: 

  • Total starts in the Vancouver CMA were flat month-over-month and down 7 per cent year-over-year with declines posted in both single and multiple units starts. 
  • In the supply constrained Victoria CMA market, housing starts jumped 25 per cent from March as new multiple unit projects broke ground. However new home construction was well off the pace set in 2016 with total starts down 26 per cent year-over-year . 
  • New home construction in the Kelowna CMA dropped 24 per cent on a month-over-month basis after a strong March. However, year-over-year, total housing starts were four times higher than April 2016.
  • Housing starts in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA were down 26 per cent from March but were up close to 60 per cent compared to April 2016 due to a stronger pace of multiple unit starts.

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Canadian employment was essentially flat from March to April, though compared to April 2016, employment is 1.5 per cent higher.  The national unemployment rate moved 0.2 points lower to 6.5 per cent, the lowest level since October 2008.

While employment across Canada was little changed, job growth in BC continues to surge. The province posted 11,300 new jobs in April BC and has added 80,000 jobs in the past 12 months, largely in full-time work. The provincial unemployment rate remained at 5.5 per cent in April as new additions to the labour force kept pace with employment gains.

 

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Canadian GDP was essentially unchanged in February following very strong growth in January and three consecutive monthly increases. At the industry level, output was led by higher output in the real estate sector, as well as growth in the finance and construction industries.  Declining output in the goods sector, particularly manufacturing and oil and gas, offset gains in other sectors.

Despite February's disappointing GDP number, we are still tracking first quarter growth at 3.5 per cent due to very strong economic data observed year-to-date. However, it was also reported today that the US economy grew only 0.7 per cent in the first quarter of the year, which could mean Canadian exports were weaker than expected.

 

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Canadian inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), continued to trend lower in March as consumer prices rose just 1.6 per cent following a 2 per cent increase in February.  The Bank of Canada's new core measure of inflation, called CPI-common which it says better tracks the underlying trend in prices, was up 1.3 per cent for the third consecutive month.   In BC, provincial consumer price inflation was 2 per cent in the 12 months to March.

Trend measures of core consumer prices continue to show muted levels of inflation, suggesting that the economy is still operating well below capacity. However, the Canadian economy does appear to be heating up with strong economic and job growth. If that continues, then we could see a pick up in inflation by the end of the year. For now, moderate inflation means very little pressure on the Bank of Canada to act on interest rates.

 

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Vancouver, BC – April 13, 2017. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 9,826 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in March, down 21.8 per cent from the same period last year. Total sales dollar volume was $6.79 billion, down 30 per cent from March 2016. The average MLS® residential price in the province was $690,597, a 10.5 per cent decrease from the same period last year.

“Consumer demand continues to normalize following blockbuster home sales in 2016," says Brendon Ogmundson, BCREA Economist. "However, the supply of homes available for sale has not recovered and is still declining in many markets around the province."

Although the average price in BC was down year-over-year due to a shift in the composition of sales away from higher-priced homes in Greater Vancouver, home prices in most markets are being pushed higher due to severe supply constraints. This is particularly true for the Victoria region, which currently has just over one month of inventory for sale, as well as for the apartment and townhouse market in the Lower Mainland.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume was down 34.7 per cent to $14.1 billion, when compared with the same period in 2016. Residential unit sales declined 25.5 per cent to 20,893 units, while the average MLS® residential price was down 12.4 per cent to $674,856.

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The Bank of Canada announced this morning that it is holding the target for its overnight rate at 0.5 per cent. In the press release accompanying the decision, the Bank noted that economic growth has been faster than previously expected, boosted by what the Bank sees as temporary spending from the oil and gas recovery and a boost to consumer spending by the Canada Child Benefit. However, export growth remains challenged and business investment is low. Therefore, the Bank judges that it is too early to conclude that the economy has turned a corner.  In addition, CPI inflation is trending below its 2 per cent target while the Bank's three new measures of core inflation continue to drift lower.

That downward trending inflation, along with uncertainty in United States policy,  seems to be the main barriers keeping the Bank from raising its benchmark overnight rate. While there is some remaining slack in the economy, as measured by the output gap, the Canadian economy has been growing well above the Bank's estimate of potential growth (1.5 per cent) for three consecutive quarters including a first quarter 2017  in which available data points to above 4 per cent growth.  In addition to strong GDP numbers, the economy is adding jobs at a rate of 35,000 per month over the past six months, the highest level of job growth since 2010. Should this momentum continue, it is likely we will begin to see a more hawkish Bank of Canada in the second half of the year and a first rate increase in early 2018. 

 

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The Canadian economy posted blockbuster monthly growth of 0.6 per cent in January, double the consensus expectations of economists. Growth was lead by higher output in the manufacturing, natural resource extraction, and wholesale trade industries. 

January's outsized GDP number confirms the early tracking data pointing to very strong growth in the first quarter of 2017. The Canadian economy is estimated to have expanded close to 4 per cent in the first quarter of the year.

 

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Canadian inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI),  registered 2 per cent in the 12-months to February following a 2.1 per cent increase in January. Excluding the effect of rising gasoline prices, the CPI rose just 1.3 per cent. The Bank of Canada's new core measure of inflation, called CPI-common which it says better tracks the underlying trend in prices, was up 1.3 per cent, matching the rate of inflation in January.   In BC, provincial consumer price inflation was 2.3 per cent in the 12 months to February.

Inflation in Canada continues to trend near the Bank of Canada's 2 per cent target, though largely due to higher gasoline prices. Trend measures of inflation that exclude often volatile energy prices continue to show muted levels of inflation. However, If the Canadian economy continues to grow at an above trend rate, as it has over the past three quarters, then we could see a pick up in inflation by the end of the year.

 

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Retail sales started the year strong, rising 2.2 per cent on a monthly basis in January.  That strength was broad-based with 10 of 11 retail sub-sectors reporting higher sales with the largest gains coming from motor vehicle and parts dealers.  Although we have limited information for the first quarter, very strong economic data thus far has growth in the Canadian economy tracking at close to 4 per cent to start the year. 

In BC, a robust labour market continues to fuel consumer spending with retail sales rising 2.9 per cent on a monthly basis and 6.6 per cent year-over-year in January.  Retail sales grew 6.5 per cent in 2016, the second consecutive year of 6 per cent or greater growth in retail sales. 

 

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The US Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee (the Fed) raised its target overnight rate to between 0.75 and 1 per cent this morning.  In the statement accompanying the Fed's decision, it was noted that the labour market continues to strengthen and economic activity is expanding at a moderate pace. Moreover, inflation has increased in recent quarters and near-term risks to the economic outlook appear balanced. The committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that warrants gradual increases in its target rate, but it was also noted that rates will remain below long-run levels for some time.

Today's action on interest rates by the US federal reserve, particularly the signaling of further rate increases to come this year, will put upward pressure on long-term rates in both the US and Canada.  A tightening cycle in the United States may be further compounded by US monetary and fiscal policy acting at cross purposes, with the Fed trying to cool the economy while the Trump administration embarks on deficit widening tax and spending measures. In all, we expect the consequence of these actions will be higher Canadian mortgage rates by the end of the year.   

 

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Vancouver, BC – March 15, 2017. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 6,580 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in February, down 31.7 per cent from the same period last year. Total sales dollar volume was $4.53 billion, down 39.7 per cent from February 2016. The average MLS® residential price in the province was $688,117, an 11.7 per cent decrease from the same period last year.

“Consumer demand has returned to a more typical level over the first two months of the year," said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. "While the home sales have declined nearly 32 per cent from the extraordinary performance of a year ago, last month's activity reflected the average for the month February since the year 2000."

“The average MLS® residential price for the province was down nearly 12 per cent from a record $779,419 in February 2016. However, this change is largely the result of a decline in the proportion of provincial sales originating from the Vancouver region. Last month, 37 per cent of BC home sales occurred in the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver's area, compared to 44 per cent in February 2016.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume was down 38.5 per cent to $7.3 billion, when compared with the same period in 2016. Residential unit sales declined 28.5 per cent to 11,067 units, while the average MLS® residential price was down 14.1 per cent to $660,943.

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Canadian housing starts were essentially flat compared to January, albeit up slightly to 210,207 units at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) in February. The six-month trend in Canadian housing starts continues to rise with new home construction on a 204,700 unit pace. 

In BC, total housing starts were slowed substantially by snowfall in February which prompted starts to decline 45 per cent year-over-year  Single detached starts were down 24 per cent while multiple unit starts were down 51 per cent year-over-year. We expect that construction will pick up significantly with the onset of spring.

Looking at census metropolitan areas (CMA) in BC, total starts in the Vancouver CMA were down 52 per cent year-over-year as unusually snow conditions slowed the pace of homebuilding. In the Victoria CMA, housing starts fell 5 per cent year-over-year, though starts of single detached units actually increased by 20 per cent. New home construction in the Kelowna CMA declined 29 per cent compared to last year due to a drop in multiple unit starts. Housing starts in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA fell 89 per cent as weather conditions halted most new construction.

 

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The Canadian economy expanded at a 2.6 per cent annual rate in the fourth quarter, beating expectations of 2 per cent growth.  Economic growth continues to be led higher by strong household consumption spending, though an uptick in exports was also a significant contributor. Due to a slow start to the year and disruptions caused by the Alberta wildfires,  the Canadian economy grew just 1.4 per cent overall in 2016.
 
There are clear signs of momentum in the Canadian economy, with strong hiring and economic growth over the past six months and we expect the Canadian economy will post significantly stronger growth in 2017 about 2.1 per cent.  That rate of growth should be enough to put the economy on a path toward eliminating excess slack in the economy by mid 2018, pushing inflation back to its 2 per cent target. If so, we expect the Bank of Canada may consider raising its overnight rate early next year while long-term rates and mortgage rates may creep higher in 2017. 

 

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The Bank of Canada announced this morning that it is holding the target for its overnight rate at 0.5 per cent. In the press release accompanying the decision, the Bank noted that growth in the economy is improving and recent higher CPI inflation should be only temporary, reflecting increased energy costs.  The Bank stated that it is remaining attentive to significant uncertainties weighing on its outlook.

While the Canadian economy is showing signs of improving, with strong hiring and faster than expected growth in real GDP, the outlook remains clouded by uncertainty over trade and tax policy in the United States.  If economic growth and inflation evolve as the Bank currently projects,  the Bank would likely be contemplating raising its overnight rate some time in early 2018.  However, given that we have no more clarity now than at the time of the Bank's previous rate decision regarding changes to trade agreements or the stance of US fiscal policy, the Bank will remain sidelined until the path forward becomes more clear.

 

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Vancouver, BC – February 28, 2016. The BCREA Commercial Leading Indicator (CLI) increased for the fourth consecutive quarter, rising 1.5 index points from the third to fourth quarter. The index now sits at 123.9, a 5 per cent increase from a year ago, and about a 1.2 per cent gain on a quarterly basis.

“The CLI was propelled higher by strong fourth quarter growth in the BC economy," says BCREA Economist Brendon Ogmundson. "The strength of the underlying BC economy, particularly relative to the rest of Canada, makes BC a very attractive destination for commercial investment."

Five straight quarters of rising BC manufacturing sales and a second consecutive year of more than 6 per cent growth in retail sales has driven the CLI to new heights this year. The underlying CLI trend, which smooths often noisy economic data, continues to push higher due to several quarters of strong economic statistics. That uptrend signals further growth in investment, leasing and other commercial real estate activity over the next two to four quarters.

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Canadian retail sales fell 0.9 per cent in December, following three consecutive months of solid gains. A decline in new car sales accounted for the majority of the decline at the sub-sector level, though overall holiday sales were weaker on a monthly basis. For all of 2016, Canadian retail sales rose a healthy 3.7 per cent.   Given today's data,  we are currently tracking fourth quarter Canadian real GDP growth at 2 per cent. 

In BC, retail sales were down 0.3 per cent on a monthly basis, but were 7.5 per cent higher year-over-year. A strong provincial economy and the creation of 72,000 jobs over the course of 2016 helped push retail sales 6.5 per cent higher for the year, the second consecutive year of 6 per cent or greater growth in retail sales. 

 

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US Real GDP Growth (Q4'2016) - January 27, 2017


US real GDP growth registered a weaker than expected 1.9 per cent growth the final quarter of 2016, and 1.6 per cent growth for the year as a whole.  Growth was pulled lower by a widening US trade deficit, while consumer demand and business investment were robust. Most economists expect US economic growth to accelerate to about 2.2 per cent in 2017.

The pace of economic growth in the United States could be a key determinant in the BC housing market this year. While faster US growth is generally positive for the BC economy, a stronger pace of growth along with a possibly significant shift in the fiscal outlook due to the large tax cuts and ramped-up spending plans of the Trump administration, is already translating to rising long-term interest rates as markets anticipate higher inflation and consequent monetary tightening by the US Federal Reserve. In turn, that uptrend in rates is putting pressure on Canadian mortgage rates, with many lenders increasing their best offered rates. 

 

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Canadian Retail Sales - January 20, 2017


Canadian retail sales inched 0.2 per cent higher in November.  Sales were higher in just 5 of 11 sub-sectors, with motor vehicle and parts dealers and building materials supplies leading the way.  E-commerce sales accounted for 3 per cent of total retail sales, the highest proportion to date in 2016.  Given today's data,  we are currently tracking fourth quarter Canadian real GDP growth at 1.5 per cent. 

In BC, retail sales were down 0.7 per cent on a monthly basis, but were 5.5 per cent higher year-over-year.  Year-to-date, retail sales in the province are up 6.5 per cent. 


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Canadian Manufacturing Sales - January 19, 2017


Canadian manufacturing sales rose 1.5 per cent in November after posting a moderate decline the previous month.  Sales were higher in 14 of 21 manufacturing sub-sectors. After adjusting for inflation, the total volume of sales was 1.2 per cent higher. 

In BC, where the manufacturing sector is a significant employer and a key driver of economic growth, sales were up 2.4 per cent on a monthly basis and 9.2 per cent year-over-year. The manufacturing sector has been on a significant upswing after a slow first half with sales posting nearly 8 per cent growth over the second half of the year. That growth is adding to already strong momentum in other sectors and supporting housing demand across BC communities where manufacturing, particularly of forestry products, is an important driver of local economic activity. 


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Bank of Canada Interest Rate Announcement - January 18, 2017


The Bank of Canada announced this morning that it is holding the target for its overnight rate at 0.5 per cent. In the press release accompanying the decision, the Bank noted that uncertainty in the global outlook, particularly with regard to policies in the United States, is undiminished. The Canadian economy is forecast to grow 2.1 per cent in both 2017 and 2018, implying the Canadian economy will return to full capacity in mid-2018.  On inflation, the Bank noted that it continued to be lower than expected but should return to it 2 per cent target in coming months.

Political uncertainty in the United States will likely govern the direction of both policy rates and long-term bond yields over the next year. The interest rate on 5-year government of Canada bonds has risen to its highest point in a year, which is adding upward pressure to mortgage rates offered by Canadian lenders.  While the Canadian economy is forecast to post steady growth in 2017, overall slack in the Canadian economy remains persistent.  Without a significant uptick in economic growth, inflation will likely continue to trend at or below the Bank's 2 per cent target.  That, along with lingering uncertainty, will keep the Bank sidelined through 2017 with a chance of lowering its target rate should current downside risks to the economy become realized.


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