Bank of Canada maintains policy rate, continues quantitative tightening
The Bank of Canada today held its target for the overnight rate at 5%, with the Bank Rate at 5% and the deposit rate at 5%. The Bank is continuing its policy of quantitative tightening.
The global economy continues to slow and inflation has eased further. In the United States, growth has been stronger than expected, led by robust consumer spending, but is likely to weaken in the months ahead as past policy rate increases work their way through the economy. Growth in the euro area has weakened and, combined with lower energy prices, this has reduced inflationary pressures. Oil prices are about $10-per-barrel lower than was assumed in the October Monetary Policy Report (MPR). Financial conditions have also eased, with long-term interest rates unwinding some of the sharp increases seen earlier in the autumn. The US dollar has weakened against most currencies, including Canadas.
In Canada, economic growth stalled through the middle quarters of 2023. Real GDP contracted at a rate of 1.1% in the third quarter, following growth of 1.4% in the second quarter. Higher interest rates are clearly restraining spending: consumption growth in the last two quarters was close to zero, and business investment has been volatile but essentially flat over the past year. Exports and inventory adjustment subtracted from GDP growth in the third quarter, while government spending and new home construction provided a boost. The labour market continues to ease: job creation has been slower than labour force growth, job vacancies have declined further, and the unemployment rate has risen modestly. Even so, wages are still rising by 4-5%. Overall, these data and indicators for the fourth quarter suggest the economy is no longer in excess demand.
Housing affordability: Significant deterioration in Q3 2023
From National Bank of Canada
The third quarter of 2023 witnessed a considerable deterioration for housing affordability in Canada. This degradation follows three consecutive quarters of improvements and deletes nearly two thirds of the progress that had been made so far. The worsening was widespread with every single market experiencing an increase in their mortgage payment as a percentage of income (MPPI). At the national level the deterioration stemmed from a surge in home prices of 4.6%, the largest in 6 quarters and partially erasing the decline over the last year. A rebound in home prices during a period of rising interest rates could initially appear perplexing. That said, a chronic lack of supply in the resale market compounded by record population growth has allowed prices to rise. Also contributing to lessening affordability, mortgage interest rates rose 32 basis points in the quarter, more than eliminating the two prior declines. While still rising income was a partial offset in the third quarter, it did little to assuage the situation. Looking ahead, we see a moribund outlook for affordability. At the very least, a further worsening is in the cards for the last quarter of the year. Mortgage interest rates have steadily trended up in October on the back of rising longer-term interest rates. If interest rates hold at their current level, it would only take a home price increase of 2% in the fourth quarter to surpass the worst level of affordability in a generation. The outlook remains particularly challenging for first-time homebuyers.
Canadian housing affordability posted a worsening in Q323 following three consecutive improvements. The mortgage payment on a representative home as a percentage of income (MPPI) rose 4.0 points, more than erasing the previous pullback of 1.6-points in Q223. Seasonally adjusted home prices increased 4.6% in Q323 from Q223; the benchmark mortgage rate (5-year term) surged 32 bps, while median household income rose 1.2%.
Affordability deteriorated in all of the ten markets covered in Q3. On a sliding scale of markets from worst deterioration to least: Vancouver, Toronto, Victoria, Hamilton, Calgary, Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa-Gatineau, Winnipeg, and Edmonton. Countrywide, affordability worsened 2.5 pp in the condo portion vs. a 4.5 pp degradation in the non-condo segment.
Housing market slowed in September as interest rates weigh in
On a seasonally adjusted basis, home sales decreased 1.9% from August to September, a third monthly contraction in a row following the renewed monetary tightening cycle of the Bank of Canada and the surge in long-term interest rates.
On the supply side, new listings jumped 6.3% in September, a sixth consecutive monthly increase.
Overall, active listing increased by 3.7%, a third monthly gain in a row. As a result the number of months of inventory (active-listings to sales) increased from 3.5 in August to 3.7 in September. This continues to be higher than the trough of 1.7 reached in the pandemic but remains low on a historical basis.
The active-listings to sales ratio loosened during the month but remained tighter than its historical average in every province except Ontario, which now indicated a slightly less tight market than the average.
Housing starts rose 20.1K in September to a 3-month high of 270.5K (seasonally adjusted and annualized), a result comfortably above the median economist forecast calling for a 240.0K print. At the provincial level, total starts went up in Ontario (+19.3K to 103.6K), Alberta (+8.7K to a seven-and-a-half-year high of 49.1K) and Nova Scotia (+5.1K to 8.1K). Alternatively, declines were recorded in British Columbia (-8.6K to a 7-month low of 40.5K) and Saskatchewan (-2.7K to 3.4K).
The Teranet-National Bank Composite National House Price Index rose 0.7% in September after seasonal adjustment. All 11 markets in the composite index were up during the month: Halifax (+1.9%), Ottawa-Gatineau (+1.7%), Victoria (+1.7%), Vancouver (+1.1%) and Calgary (+0. 9%) posted stronger-than-average growth, while Winnipeg (+0.7%) matched the composite index, and Montreal (+0.1%), Hamilton (+0.1%), Edmonton (+0.2%), Toronto (+0.5%) and Quebec City (+0.5%) saw less vigorous increases.