Canadian Housing Starts - January 8, 2018

Canadian housing starts closed out the year falling 14 per cent on monthly basis to 216,980 units at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR).  The six-month trend in Canadian housing starts remained elevated at 226,777units SAAR. For all of 2017, total new home construction in Canada was up 6.2 per cent.

BC saw total housing starts rise 11 per cent to almost 50,000 units SAAR in December on a monthly basis. Total starts in BC were up 26 per cent year-over-year. Single detached starts were down 2 per cent on a monthly basis but increased 21 per cent compared to December 2016 while multiple starts were up 15 per cent month-over-month and were 28 per cent higher year-over-year. For all of 2017, new home construction in BC was up 4 per cent.

Looking at census metropolitan areas (CMA) in BC: 

  • Total starts in the Vancouver CMA were driven higher by apartment condominium starts in Vancouver, Richmond and Coquitlam. Multiple starts across the CMA rose 11 per cent year-over-year in December, offsetting a 4 per cent decline in single detached starts. Overall, Vancouver CMA starts finished 2017 down 6 per cent.
  • In the Victoria CMA, the year closed with historically high housing starts, reaching the highest level of new home construction since 1976. Multiple unit starts jumped 70 per cent in December on a year-over-year basis, driven by elevated rental market construction. For all of 2017, Victoria new home construction increased 32 per cent.
  • New home construction in the Kelowna CMA were up 18 per cent from November but down 17 per cent year-over-year. For all of 2017, multiple unit starts drove a surge in new home construction, rising 88 per cent over 2016 leading to a 63 per cent overall increase in housing starts.
  • Housing starts in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA tumbled 72 per cent on a monthly basis in December following a spike in multiple unit starts the previous month. On a year-over-year basis, new home construction was down 41 per cent. For all of 2017, new home construction in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA was up 51 per cent.

Copyright British Columbia Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.


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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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