Canadian real GDP rose 0.5 per cent in May, an acceleration from just 0.1 per cent growth in the month of April. Growth was distributed across a breadth of sectors, with 19 of 20 industrial sectors reporting increased output. The mining and oil and gas sector led the way, posting 0.6 per cent monthly growth in May. Office of real estate agents and brokers fell for the fourth time in five months, in part due to declining home sales in BC resulting from the ongoing impact of the mortgage stress test.  With today's release, we are tracking second quarter real GDP growth in Canada at close to 3 per cent.

Very strong second quarter economic growth and a firming of inflation near its 2 per cent target continues to signal higher interest rates on the horizon. We expect the Bank of Canada will raise its overnight rate at least one more time this year with mortgage rates rising in tandem.


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US real GDP growth registered 4.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2018, boosted by 4 per cent growth in consumer spending  and over 7 per cent growth in non-residential business investment. However, strong growth is not expected to last beyond 2018.  Net exports were driven temporarily higher by a surge in soybean shipments ahead of expected retaliatory tariffs while consumption and investment were jolted higher by tax cuts. Meanwhile, government spending added significantly to overall growth due to massive new funding under the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act.  Once those temporary measures fade, growth will decelerate.

Under normal circumstances, strong economic growth in the United States is good news for the BC economy, which ship half of its goods exports to the US. However, under the current administration, the benefits are lessened by tariffs and the continued threat of further anti-free trade actions.


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Canadian manufacturing sales increased 1.4 per cent on a monthly basis in May, pushed higher by gains in the chemical, machinery and wood product industries.  Sales were higher in 14 of 21 manufacturing sub-sectors, representing almost two-thirds of manufacturing sales.  On a year-over-year basis, Canadian manufacturing sales were up 3.7 per cent over May 2017.

In BC,  manufacturing sales were up 3.2 per cent in May on a monthly basis and were 9.7 per cent higher year-over-year.  The province's forestry sector led the way as sales of manufactured wood products rose 9.2 per cent from April. The BC manufacturing sector continues to be a bright spot in the economy, with sales up 8.5 per cent year-to-date.
  

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Vancouver, BC – July 13, 2018. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 7,884 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) across the province in June, a 32.5 per cent decrease from the same month last year. The average MLS® residential price in BC was $716,326, down 1.3 per cent from June 2017. Total sales dollar volume was $5.6 billion, a 33 per cent decline from June 2017.

“The impact of the B20 stress test is still being felt across the province,” said Brendon Ogmundson, BCREA Deputy Chief Economist. “Lower demand as the result of higher mortgage rates and stringent mortgage qualification rules are bringing most markets around the province back into balanced conditions.”

Although the supply of active listings in the province is on the rise, inventory remains low by historical standards and markets like Vancouver Island and the Okanagan remain undersupplied.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume was down 18 per cent to $32 billion, compared with the same period in 2017. Residential unit sales decreased 20 per cent to 43,863 units, while the average MLS® residential price was up 2.4 per cent to $730,492.

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The Bank of Canada opted to raise its target for the overnight rate 25 basis points to 1.5 per cent this morning. In the statement accompanying the decision, the Bank cited that the economy is operating close to capacity and as a result inflation is expected to edge higher over their two year forecast horizon. The Bank noted that incoming data suggests housing markets are starting to stabilize after the implementation of the B20 stress test.
   
With inflation rising to the Bank's two per cent target and the Canadian economy operating at or near capacity, the Bank of Canada is unlikely to be finished tightening. At its current level, the overnight rate is about 150 basis points below the 3 per cent rate the Bank would ultimately prefer it to be. However, the Bank may take a brief pause to assess the impact of its past tightening as well as the ongoing effects of the B20 stress test on housing markets. It may also be dissuaded from further tightening should there be a further escalation in trade tariffs from the United States. Overall, we expect at least one more round of rate increases from the Bank of Canada in 2018.


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Canadian housing starts rose 28 per cent on a monthly basis in June to 248,000 units at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR).  The six-month trend in Canadian housing starts was steady at about 222,000 units SAAR.

In BC, total housing starts declined 16 per cent on a monthly basis to 34,300 units SAAR and were down 10 per cent year-over-year. On a monthly basis, starts of multiple units were down 21 per cent to an annual rate of 24,563 units. Multiple unit and single detached starts were both down10 per cent compared to June of last year.
 
Looking at census metropolitan areas (CMA) in BC: 

  • Total starts in the Vancouver CMA were down 28 per cent year-over-year due to a 34 per cent decline in multiple unit starts and were down 36 per cent from May 2018. In the first six months of the year, housing starts in the Vancouver CMA were essentially flat compared to the first six months of 2017.
  • In the Victoria CMA, housing starts nearly doubled year-over-year and were up 85 per cent on a monthly basis to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of nearly 6,000 units. New home construction is up 45 per cent year-over-year in the first six months of the year. Much of that new construction is the result of a doubling of rental starts compared to last year.
  • In the Kelowna CMA, new home construction increased 43 per cent year-over-year as a result of continued growth in multiple unit starts. However, on a monthly basis, total starts were down 6 per cent from May to a rate of 3,590 units SAAR.
  • Housing starts in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA  fell 5 per cent from May to 515 units SAAR due to a dip in multiple unit starts. Year-over-year, total housing starts fell 82 per cent as only 47 total units including only 16 multiple units were started in June.

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After two months of relatively little change, Canadian employment increased by 32,000 jobs in June and was up 1.2 per cent year-over-year. However, due to an increase in the number of people actively looking for work, the national unemployment rate rose 0.2 points to 6 per cent.

In BC, employment fell by 8,000 jobs as over 10,000 part-time positions were lost and only 2,100 full-time jobs were gained. On a year-over-year basis, employment was down 0.8 per cent.  The provincial unemployment rate moved 0.4 points higher in June to 5.2 per cent.


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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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