Interest Rate Outlook
The Agreement between the Bank of Canada and the Goverment of Canada for the Inflation-Control Target was renewed in 2016. The Bank of Canada has a mandate to keep an inflation-control target range of 1-3% with 2% as being the midpoint target over the medium-run. This target is the year-over-year increase in the total consumer price index (CPI) which is the most relevant cost of living measure for most Canadians. Keeping the inflation target in mind, the Bank of Canada has to maintain a delicate balance given the current state of the economy as well as inflation trending near its target.
The low oil prices have taken a snowball effect as it continues to increase unemployment in energy producing provinces while simultaneously causing a weaker Canadian dollar which in turn makes the cost of imported goods more expensive. The BCREA expects a continued weak economic growth for the first quarter. However, with "the possibility of an effective fiscal stimulus, a stronger US economy and a stabilization of oil prices points to stronger growth ahead" (BCREA, 2016).
"After standing on the sidelines for years, the Bank unexpectedly cut its benchmark [interest] rate twice last year in an attempt to stimulate a Canadian economy waylaid by low oil prices" (CBC, 2016). Since then, there have been some signs of improvement. There is potential for the Bank of Canada to reduce rates once more in 2016 although the BCREA's expectation is that the Bank will remain on the sidelines throughout the year. The Bank of Canada has elected to keep its benchmark lending rate at 0.5%. In a broad sense, the Bank will reduce rates when the economy needs to be stimulated or alternatively, would increase rates when it needs to pump the brakes on inflation.
Source: British Columbia Real Estate Association + CBC Business
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