Canadian real GDP grew 3 per cent in July, following a record 6.5 per cent increase in June.  However, even after three consecutive months of strong growth, the Canadian economy remains about 6 per cent below its pre-pandemic level of output.  All 20 Canadian industrial sectors posted increases in July, with the real estate sector surpassing its pre-pandemic level of GDP.

Statistics Canada preliminary estimate for August real GDP growth is 1 per cent, which means that third quarter real GDP growth is currently tracking at close to 10 per cent, or about 40 per cent on a quarterly annualized basis.  Still, even that unprecedented level of growth would still leave the Canadian economy about 4 per cent below its pre-pandemic level. From there, we anticipate a strong, albeit slower rate of growth as the economy heals and enters a “recuperation phase.”
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Retail sales rose for the third consecutive month in July by 0.6% on a seasonally-adjusted basis, close to Statistic Canada's preliminary estimate of 0.7%. This marks a deceleration from the 23% rise in June and a 21% rise in May, as stores were reopening. Sales were up in 6 of 11 subsectors, led by higher sales at auto dealers and at gas stations. Excluding these two subsectors, retail sales declined by 1.2%. Compared to the same time last year, retail sales were up by 5%.    

Sales were up in five provinces in July, the most notable increases were in BC, Manitoba, and Alberta. In BC, seasonally-adjusted retail sales were up by 2.1% ($7.6 billion) and by 0.9% ($3.4 billion) in Vancouver. Retail sales were up in the majority of subsectors, except in electronics/appliances and at auto dealers.  

Growth in e-commerce sales continued to slow in July, up by 63% year-over-year, following a 71% rise in the previous month. The slowdown is a result of the expansion of the reopening of physical stores. In July, e-commerce sales totaled $2.8 billion, accounting for 4.8% of total retails sales, down from 5% in the previous month. This excludes Canadians purchasing from foreign e-commerce retailers.  
    
Early estimates provided by Statistics Canada for August suggest that retail sales increased by 1.1%. Overall, the recovery in retail sales has been V-shaped with pent-up demand largely dissipated. Government support programs and low interest rates will continue to support retail spending. However, elevated unemployment levels, uncertainty around the continuation of deferral programs, and rising COVID-19 cases could also pose challenges going forward. 

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Canadian inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 0.1% in August year-over-year, matching last month's increase. Excluding gasoline, the CPI rose by 0.6%. Prices rose in five of eight components year-over-year with notable increases in food, shelter, and personal care, while prices continued to fall for transportation, clothing and footwear, and recreation. The Bank of Canada's three measures of trend inflation rose by 0.1 percentage points, averaging 1.7% in August.

Regionally, the CPI was positive in five provinces. In BC, CPI rose by 0.2% in August year-over-year, matching last month's increase. Prices continued to rise for alcohol/tobacco/cannabis, food, shelter, household furnishings, and personal care. The increase in personal care was mainly due to higher prices for haircuts. In contrast, downward price pressures were ongoing in recreation, gas, transportation, and clothing and footwear.

As some provinces begin to re-visit containment measures seen earlier in the pandemic, inflation is expected to continue to be weak. In this environment, the Bank of Canada will keep interest rates low.

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Vancouver, BC – September 14, 2020. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 10,172 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in August 2020, an increase of 42.8 per cent from August 2019. The average MLS® residential price in BC was $771,309, a 12.7 per cent increase from $684,093 recorded the previous year. Total sales dollar volume in August was $7.8 billion, a 61.1 per cent increase over 2019.

“Very strong provincial home sales continued in August,” said BCREA Chief Economist Brendon Ogmundson. “While pent-up demand from the spring is driving much of the increase, we anticipate a sustained strong level of sales through the fall.”

Total provincial active listings are still down more than 10 per cent year-over-year, with some markets even more under-supplied as the pandemic continues to keep listings low. As a result, prices are sharply rising around the province.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume was up 15.8 per cent to $40.4 billion, compared with the same period in 2019. Residential unit sales were up 4.9 per cent to 53,336 units, while the average MLS® residential price was up 10.4 per cent to $757,504.   
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The Bank of Canada held its overnight rate at 0.25 per cent this morning, a level it considers its effective lower bound. The Bank is also continuing its quantitative easing (QE) program, with large scale asset purchases of at least $5 billion per week in Government of Canada bonds. In the statement accompanying the decision, the Bank noted that the Canadian economy is evolving broadly in line with expectations, with a strong re-opening phase to be followed by slower, uneven growth and heavily reliant on policy support.  Inflation remains close to zero, with downward pressure from energy prices and travel services, and is expected to remain below the Bank's 2 per cent target for some time.  The Bank re-emphasized its commitment to keep its policy rate at its effective lower bound of 0.25 per cent until slack is absorbed in the economy and inflation stabilizes around its 2 per cent target. Its QE program will continue until a recovery is well underway. Given the Bank's' current projections, that means rates could be on hold until 2022.

A recovery in the housing market is well underway with sales in BC surpassing their pre-COVID-19 level.  With the Bank committing to holding its policy rate at 25 basis points until slack in the economy is absorbed, and continuing its quantitative easing program of asset purchases, Canadian mortgage rates should remain at current historical lows for quite some time, providing a significant boost to the BC housing market.

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Canadian employment gained 246,000 jobs in August (1.4%, m/m), following a gain of 419,000 in July. Combined with gains in May and June, national employment is now within 1.1 million of its pre-COVID February level. The national unemployment rate fell by 0.7 percentage points to 10.2% from the previous month. August gains were driven by full-time work, wherein the previous month it was in part-time work. Employment continued to increase at a faster pace in the services sector with the help of growth in educational services, accommodation and food services, and in other services sectors. Compared to the same month last year, Canadian employment was down by 5.3% (-1 million). 

Regionally, employment increased in all provinces except in Alberta and in New Brunswick, with the largest gains in Ontario (142K) and Quebec (54K). In BC, employment grew by 15,000 (0.6%,m/m) in August, which follows a 70,000 gain in July. The province is now at 94% of its pre-COVID February employment level. The gain in August brought down BC's unemployment rate by 0.4 percentage points to 10.7%. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, employment decreased by 2,300 jobs in August. Compared to one year ago, employment in BC was down by 6.6% (-170K) jobs. 

Canadian employment grew for a fourth consecutive month, but the pace of growth is slowing. This was expected as containment restrictions were lifted in the early summer months, but have since halted in an effort to contain rising virus infections. Employment recovery is expected to continue to slow from here on, as many of the hardest-hit industries have reopened and educators start to return to school. 








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The BCREA Commercial Leading Indicator (CLI) continued to fall in the second quarter of 2020 from 127.6 to 121.9, representing the fourth consecutive quarterly decline. It was the second largest drop in the indicator in over two decades, reflecting the hardest hit months of the pandemic in April and May. Compared to the same time last year, the index was down by 9.8 per cent.

The second quarter of 2020 saw the complete shutdown of key economic industries in BC, while employment continued to decline in manufacturing and in key real estate sectors. In contrast, the financial component had the largest positive impact on the CLI on record, as REIT prices rose and risk spreads narrowed from the previous quarter. The underlying trend in the CLI continued its downward trend into the second quarter of 2020. This suggests that going forward, the environment for commercial real estate activity in BC will continue to be weak.

BC’s economy was slowed by the pandemic in the first quarter of 2020, and by the second quarter came to a halt. Manufacturing sales of both durable and nondurable goods fell by magnitudes not seen since the great financial crisis in 2009. The decline in wholesale trade was driven by lower sales in motor vehicles, and to a lesser extent by lower sales in personal and household goods such as clothing and footwear. Meanwhile, April saw the largest monthly drop in retail sales on record, as brick-and-mortar stores were shut down for most of the second quarter. Although online sales reached new highs during this period, they were not enough to offset the decline.

Employment growth in key commercial real estate sectors such as finance, insurance, real estate and leasing was negative for the second consecutive quarter, down by about 1,700 jobs, which is notably fewer than the 13,500 jobs lost in the previous quarter. Manufacturing employment fell for the fourth consecutive quarter by about 5,170 jobs, almost three times the number of jobs lost in the previous quarter.

The CLI’s financial component was positive in the second quarter of 2020 as the market bounced back from the full meltdown in late February that sent equity markets into free fall and government bond yields plummeting.





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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. 


Copyright British Columbia Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.


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. 


Copyright British Columbia Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.


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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