Canadian inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), registered 2 per cent in the twelve months to December, a slight uptick from 1.7 per cent in November. Lower energy prices were offset by an increase in air transportation, and telephone services.  Excluding the impact of falling gasoline prices, consumer prices were up 2.5 per cent. The Bank of Canada's three measures of trend inflation were all unchanged, averaging 1.9 per cent.   In BC, provincial consumer price inflation was 3 per cent in the 12 months to December. 

With core inflation trending sideways and the economy expected to slow this year, the odds of further Bank of Canada tightening this year are diminishing, which is being reflected by lower 5-year yields in the Canadian bond market. That should result in a dip in Canadian mortgage rates relatively soon, which would provide a much needed boost to a housing market still struggling with the impact of the mortgage stress test.


Copyright British Columbia Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.

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Vancouver, BC – January 15, 2019. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 78,345 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in 2018, a decline of 24.5 per cent from the 103,758 units sold in 2017. The annual average MLS® residential price in BC was $712,508, an increase of 0.4 per cent from $709,601 recorded the previous year. Total sales dollar volume was $55.8 billion, a 24.2 per cent decline from 2017.

“BC home sales fell below the 10-year average of 84,800 units in 2018,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. “The sharp decline in affordability caused by the B20 mortgage stress test is largely to blame for decline in consumer demand last year.”

A total of 3,497 MLS® residential unit sales were recorded across the province in December, down 39.1 per cent from December 2017. The average MLS® residential price in BC was $695,647, a decline of 5.2 per cent from December 2017. Total sales dollar volume was $2.4 billion, a 42.3 per cent decline during the same period.
Total active residential listings were up 33.3 per cent to 27,615 units in December, the highest December inventory since 2014 when 33,995 active residential listings were recorded.

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The Bank of Canada left its target for the overnight rate unchanged at 1.75 per cent this morning. In the statement accompanying the decision, the Bank noted that the outlook for the Canadian economy is moderating due to  falling oil prices and mandatory production cuts in Alberta and a slowdown in global demand due to US-China trade tensions. As a result, the Bank has trimmed its forecast for Canadian economic growth in 2019 from 2.1 per cent to 1.7 per cent.  Total inflation is being dragged lower by falling gasoline prices, though core inflation remains near the Bank's 2 per cent target.

While the direction of future monetary policy remains tilted toward higher interest rates, our baseline forecast is for a single rate hike as the most likely outcome for 2019. With a housing market battered by the stress test and signs of slowing growth elsewhere in the economy, it will be difficult for the Bank to accelerate monetary tightening beyond a gradual pace.  A less hawkish Bank of Canada, along with a steep fall in Canadian bond yields, should translate to mortgage rates flattening out or even moving slightly lower in 2019.

Copyright British Columbia Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.

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Canadian employment was up slightly in December, rising by 9,300 jobs. The national unemployment held steady at 5.6 per cent, the lowest it has been since 1976. Total employment for all of 2018 increased by 163,000 jobs, a 0.9 per cent rise over 2017.
 
In BC, employment grew by 4,400 jobs in December as full-time work jumped by almost 23,000 jobs but was offset by a drop in part-time employment.  On a year-over-year basis, employment was up 1.8 per cent and the provincial unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.4 per cent, the lowest rate among all provinces. 


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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. 

 

Copyright British Columbia Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.



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.


Copyright British Columbia Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.

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