Canadian retail sales increased 0.6 per cent on a monthly basis in March and were 4.1 per cent higher year-over-year.  Sales were higher in 6 of 11 sub-sectors representing 53 per cent of total retail trade.  With today's data, and all other data available thus far for the first quarter, we are tracking Canadian economic growth at about 2.1 per cent for the first quarter of 2018.  In BC, retail sales were up 0.6 per cent on a monthly basis and 5.1 per cent year-over-year. Retail sales in the province continue to moderate back to historical trend after growing more than 9 per cent in 2017.

Canadian inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), ticked slightly lower in April to 2.2 per cent after registering 2.3 per cent in March. The Bank of Canada's three measures of trend inflation were slightly higher with two of the three measures moving above 2 per cent.   In BC, provincial consumer price inflation was 2.7 per cent in the 12 months to March.  Stronger than expected first quarter growth and inflation at or near the Bank of Canada's target of 2 per cent means an interest rate increase from the Bank is very likely, potentially at its next meeting on May 30th.

 

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Canadian manufacturing sales rose 1.4 per cent on a monthly in March, led by higher sales of primary metals, aerospace products and fabricated metal products.  Sales were up in 13 of 21 manufacturing sub-sectors, representing 72 per cent of the manufacturing sector.  On a year-over-year basis, Canadian manufacturing sales were up 6.4 per cent over March 2017.

In BC, manufacturing sales increased 4 per cent on a monthly basis and were up 10.5 per cent year-over-year. Those gains were primarily the result of higher sales in BC's forestry sector. The paper manufacturing industry saw a 33 per cent increase in sales year-over-year in March, while wood products were up 36.4 per cent.

 

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Vancouver, BC – May 14, 2018. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 8,203 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) across the province in April, a 16.8 per cent decrease from the same month last year. The average MLS® residential price in BC was $730,507, up 0.2 per cent from the previous year. Total sales dollar volume was $5.99 billion, a 16.7 per cent decline from April 2017.

“BC home sales were essentially unchanged in April compared to March, albeit up nearly 1 per cent on a seasonally adjusted basis," said Cameron Muir, BCREA's Chief Economist. “The impact of more burdensome mortgage qualifications for conventional borrowers is expected to soften over the next several months as potential buyers adjust both their finances and expectations.”

The supply of homes for sale in April increased 4 per cent from the previous month. However, total active listings on the market continue to remain low from a historical perspective. Most regions of the province have begun trending toward more balance between supply and demand, causing less upward pressure on home prices.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume was down 6.7 per cent to $19.9 billion, compared with the same period in 2017. Residential unit sales decreased 11.8 per cent to 27,135 units, while the average MLS® residential price was up 5.7 per cent to $731,661.

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Canadian employment was essentially unchanged in April on a monthly basis but up 1.5 per cent compared to 1 year ago. The national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.8 per cent and total hours worked across the economy grew by 1.9 per cent.

In BC, employment grew by 2,900 jobs. With the economy close to its full-employment level, part-time work is being largely converted into full-time work. In April, BC added 18,200  full-time positions while losing 15,300 part-time jobs. Overall, the level of employment in BC has been trending sideways for several months and was up just 0.9 per cent year-over-year in March. The provincial unemployment rate moved 0.3 points higher to 5 per cent.

 

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The Canadian economy bounced back in February after a down month in January. Real GDP grew 0.4 per cent on a monthly basis in February,  led by higher output in the manufacturing and construction sector as well as a rebound in mining and oil and gas extraction. The output of offices of real estate agents and brokers across Canada fell for a second consecutive month due to the ongoing impact of the B20 stress test.

Given today's release, growth in the Canadian economy is tracking at just under 2 per cent for the first quarter of 2018. Continued above trend growth and rising inflation signal further interest rates increases by the Bank of Canada, possibly as soon as the end of May.

 

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US real GDP growth registered 2.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2018, the slowest pace in a year due to a pullback in spending by households that saw consumer spending post its lowest growth in five years.  On the positive side, business investment was solid and exports rose nearly 5 per cent. However, US imports of goods and services from other countries grew only 2.6 per cent.

While steady growth in the United States is generally good news for the BC economy, slow growth in US imports and the ad-hoc approach to trade policy under the current administration still present a significant risk for BC's important export sector.

 

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Canadian retail sales increased 0.4 per cent on monthly in basis in February and were 3.5 per cent higher year-over-year.  Sales were higher in only 4 of 11 sub-sectors representing less than half of total retail trade.  With today's data, and all other data available thus far for the first quarter, we are tracking Canadian economic growth at about 1.6 per cent for the first quarter of 2018.  In BC, retail sales were up 0.4 per cent on a monthly basis and 5.9 per cent year-over-year. Retail sales in the province continue to moderate back to historical trend after growing close to 10 per cent in 2017.

Canadian inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), increased again in March as prices rose 2.3 per cent year-over-year, up from 2.2 per cent in February. The Bank of Canada's three measures of trend inflation were relatively unchanged at around 2 per cent.   In BC, provincial consumer price inflation was 2.6 per cent in the 12 months to March.  Rising inflation and an economy operating at capacity signals further Bank of Canada tightening, potentially as soon as the next interest rate decision on May 30.

 

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The Bank of Canada decided to leave the target for the overnight policy rate unchanged at 1.25 per cent this morning. In the statement accompanying the decision, the Bank noted that inflation is forecast to be slightly higher in 2018 than originally expected but will return to the Bank's 2 per cent target once the impact of higher gas prices and minimum wage increases dissipate.  While the mortgage stress test has been a contributor to weaker growth in the first quarter of 2018, the Bank expects the economy to be operating at above potential over the next three years, growing at an average rate of about 2 per cent.

Although the Bank held steady today, with inflation rising to the Bank's two per cent target and many Canadian firms operating at or near capacity, interest rates are very likely headed higher this year.  Headwinds from the trade sector have moderated, energy prices are higher and growth for the first quarter appears to be firming after a slow start. Given those trends, the Bank is likely to adjust its policy rate higher in coming months. That will translate to higher mortgage rates which, combined with the erosion of purchasing power from the mortgage stress test, will temper housing demand in 2018.

 

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Vancouver, BC – April 12, 2018. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 7,409 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) across the province in March, a 24.6 per cent decrease from the same month last year. The average MLS® residential price in BC was $726,930, up 5.3 per cent from the previous year. Total sales dollar volume was $5.39 billion, a 20.6 per cent decline from March 2017.

“More burdensome mortgage qualifications are having the predictable effect of swiftly curbing housing demand,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. “You simply cannot pull as much as 20 per cent of the purchasing power away from conventional mortgage borrowers and not create a downturn in consumer demand.”

Despite the decline in consumer demand, the supply of homes for sale remains low in most BC regions. Total active listings on the market are essentially unchanged from March 2017, and are at or near a 12-year low across the province. As a result, home prices are expected to continue an upward trajectory.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume was down 1.7 per cent to $13.9 billion, compared with the same period in 2017. Residential unit sales decreased 9.4 per cent to 18,927 units, while the average MLS® residential price was up 8.5 per cent to $732,243.

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Canadian employment grew by 32,000 jobs in March, driven by mostly full-time gains while the national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.8 per cent. Over the past 12-months, employment in Canada is up by close to 300,000 jobs while total hours worked is up 2.2 per cent.  For the first quarter, however, employment is down 40,000 jobs due large job losses to start the year.

In BC, employment fell by 3,900 jobs as a surge in full-time employment (up almost 24,000 jobs) was offset by falling part-time employment. Overall, the level of employment in BC has been trending sideways for several months and was up just 1.3 per cent year-over-year in March. The provincial unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.7 per cent.

 

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The Canadian economy contracted on a monthly basis in January with real GDP edging down 0.1 per cent.  The decline was the result of lower output in the energy extraction sector as well as lower real estate activity due to the implementation of new mortgage qualification rules.  The output of real estate agents and brokers fell 12.8 per cent in January, the largest monthly decline since November 2008.

Given today's release, growth in the Canadian economy is tracking at about 1 per cent for the first quarter, a further slowdown from the already somewhat sluggish fourth quarter of 2017. Despite rising inflation, sharply slower economic growth should give the Bank of Canada pause about further increases in its overnight rate.

 

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Canadian retail sales increased 0.3 per cent on monthly in basis in January and were 3.6 per cent higher compared to last January. Sales were higher in 7 of 11 sub-sectors representing 63 per cent of total retail trade.  With today's data, and all other data available thus far for the first quarter, we are tracking Canadian economic growth at just 0.9 per cent for the first quarter of 2018.  In BC, after growing nearly 10 per cent in 2017,retail sales growth has slowed, falling 1 per cent on a monthly basis in January but rising 6.2 per cent compared to January 2017.

Canadian inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), jumped higher in February, registering 2.2 per cent year-over-year, up from 1.7 per cent in January. The Bank of Canada's three measures of trend inflation were all higher as well and now are either very close to or exceeding the Bank's 2 per cent inflation target.   In BC, provincial consumer price inflation was 2.8 per cent in the 12 months to February.

Today's data is somewhat mixed in its impact on monetary policy in Canada. On the one hand, the Canadian economy appears to be slowing considerably, while on the other, inflation continues to close in on the Bank's target of 2 per cent.  We believe the Bank will continue to hold interest rates steady until summer or fall to get a better grasp on the direction of the economy before acting.
 
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Vancouver, BC – March 14, 2018. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 6,206 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) across the province in February, a 5.7 per cent decrease from the same period last year. The average MLS® residential price in BC was $748,327, up 8.8 per cent from the previous year. Total sales dollar volume was $4.64 billion, a 2.6 per cent increase from February 2017.

“More stringent mortgage qualification rules for conventional borrowers are dampening housing demand in the province,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. “Since the new rules came into effect, BC home sales have fallen more than 26 per cent, on a seasonally adjusted basis.”

Previous mortgage policy tightening has negatively impacted housing demand for a period of four to seven months, with the largest impact occurring in the third month after implementation.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume was up 15.9 per cent to $8.47 billion, compared with the same period in 2017. Residential unit sales increased 4.1 per cent to 11,516 units, while the average MLS® residential price was up 11.3 per cent to $735,755.

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Canadian housing starts increased 6.7 per cent on a monthly basis in February to 229,737 units at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR).  The six-month trend in Canadian housing starts rose to 225,276 units SAAR.

In BC, total housing starts fell 26 per cent monthly basis to 30,622 units SAAR with both single and multiple unit starts posting monthly declines of over 20 per cent. On a year-over-year basis, total starts in the province were 9 per cent higher. 

Looking at census metropolitan areas (CMA) in BC: 

  • Total starts in the Vancouver CMA were down 37 per cent on a monthly basis at 20,000 units SAAR but were 12 per cent higher compared to February of last year.  Construction activity is particularly strong in the condo markets of Burnaby, the North Shore and the city of Vancouver.
  • In the Victoria CMA, housing starts nearly tripled on a monthly basis to an annualized rate of almost 4,000 units due to a number of multiple unit projects breaking ground. Total starts in the Victoria CMA were up 48 per cent year-over-year. Construction activity is being driven by new apartment rentals and condos.
  • The Kelowna CMA saw housing starts decline over 60 per cent on a monthly basis in February with relatively little new construction occurring in the month. The CMHC counted just 22 single units and 15 multiple unit starts.
  • Housing starts in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA  increased 200 per cent year-over-year as construction of more than 300 new multiple units got underway in February.  However, the annualized pace of starts fell 6 per cent from January at just under 800 units SAAR.

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The Bank of Canada opted to maintain its target for the overnight interest rate this morning at 1.25 per cent.  In the statement accompanying the decision, the Bank noted that although growth in the Canadian economy slowed more than expected in the fourth quarter of 2017, the economy is expected to operate at capacity going forward. The bank cited recent trade policy developments, mainly the threat of a trade war with the United States, as a significant risk to its outlook for growth and inflation.

The Canadian economy is at or very close to full-employment, meaning there is little room for Canadian firms to expand output without putting undue pressure on inflation. There are signs core inflation is already firming up. Two of the Bank’s three core inflation measures are closing in on the Bank’s 2 per cent target and all three measures have increased significantly in the past six months. Absent any unforeseen challenges to the Canadian economy, monetary policy will be biased in the direction of higher interest rates.  However, the Bank will likely hold off raising its overnight rate while it assesses the impact of tighter monetary policy over the past year, the impact of newly implemented B-20 guidelines on mortgage qualification rules, and heightened risk to Canadian exports from US trade policy.

 

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The Canadian economy closed 2017 on somewhat of a disappointing note, growing just 1.7 per cent in the fourth quarter. The consensus forecast of economists was for growth north of 2 per cent.  The slowdown in growth was primarily due to slower household spending, which posted its lowest rate of growth in almost two years. Due to a very strong first half of the year win which the economy expanded at a more than 4 per cent rate, for the year as a whole Canadian real GDP grew at a rate of 3 per cent, the strongest growth since 2011.

Most estimates now put the Canadian economy at or very close to full-employment, meaning that there is little room for Canadian firms to expand output without putting undue pressure on inflation. Given that, we are forecasting that the Bank of Canada will follow up its January rate increase with at least one more rate increase in 2018. However, a larger than expected slowdown in growth over the second half of 2017 means the Bank will likely hold off until it can properly assess the impact not only of its own tightening over the past year, but also the impact of newly implemented B20 guidelines on mortgage qualification rules.

 

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Vancouver, BC – February 27, 2018. The BCREA Commercial Leading Indicator (CLI) increased for the fourth consecutive year, rising 0.4 points in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 135.7. That increase represents a 0.3 per cent rise over the second quarter and a 6.7 per cent increase from one year ago.

“The BC economy continued to thrive in the fourth quarter of 2017," says BCREA Economist Brendon Ogmundson. "Increased activity in key commercial real estate sectors contributed to a fourth consecutive year of a rising CLI, mirroring the last four years of robust economic growth."

The underlying CLI trend, which smooths often noisy economic data, continues to push higher due to strong provincial economic and employment growth. 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 inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), slowed for a second consecutive month to 1.7 per cent year-over-year, down from 1.9 per cent in December. The Bank of Canada's three measures of trend inflation were either up or flat in January, and are all now close to 2 per cent.   In BC, provincial consumer price inflation was 2.1 per cent in the 12 months to January.
 
Although total CPI inflation has ticked lower in the past two months, core inflation continues to firm up. The Bank of Canada has a tendency to look past short-term movements in CPI inflation so the most recent downtrend probably will not prompt a shift in thinking at the Bank, at least as long as core inflation moves higher.  That means the Bank is still likely to raise its overnight rate at least one more time this year.

 

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Canadian retail sales closed the year on a down note, falling 0.8 per cent in December. That broke a string of three consecutive monthly increases. Sales fell in 6 of 11 sub-sectors representing 42 per cent of total retail trade.  For all of 2017, Canadian retail sales were up 6.7 per cent. With today's data release, we are tracking Q4 Canadian economic growth at 2.2 per cent.

In BC, retail sales declined 0.6 per cent on a monthly basis but were up 10.6 per cent compared to December 2016. For the year, BC retail sales grew at 9.6 per cent, the fastest rate of annual growth in over two decades. That jump in consumer spending was a main contributor to a robust provincial economy, which we forecast grew 3.8 per cent in 2017.

 

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Canadian manufacturing sales ended 2017 on a down note, declining 0.3 per cent on a monthly basis after a nearly 4 per cent increase in November. The decline was the result of lower sales in the energy sector as well as declining sales in food manufacturing.  Sales were down in 11 of 21 manufacturing sub-sectors, representing 57 per cent of the manufacturing sector.  On a year-over-year basis, Canadian manufacturing sales were up 3.7 per cent over December 2016.

In BC, manufacturing sales dipped 0.7 per cent on a monthly basis but were up close to 9 per cent year-over-year. For all of 2017, BC manufacturing sales rose 8.1 per cent with significant contributions from a diverse array of industries, most notably the the forestry sector where sales of paper and wood products were up more than 9 per cent on an annual basis. Those gains helped drive employment and housing demand around the province as BC posted another stellar year of economic growth.

 

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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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