12 Jul

Bank of Canada Turns the Tide by Dr. Sherry Cooper

Latest News

Posted by: Vladimir Britch

For the first time in seven years, the Bank of Canada announced today that it was hiking its key overnight rate by a quarter percentage point (25 basis points) bringing it to 0.75 percent as the economy has staged a broadly based economic expansion this year. In a break from tradition, the Bank has taken this action even though inflation remains well below its target rate of 2 percent. Indeed, inflation has hit its lowest level since 1999. The consumer price index (CPI), released in late June, rose only 1.3 percent in May from a year ago, down from an annual pace of 1.6 percent in April. Both Governor Poloz and Senior Deputy Governor Wilkins have emphasized that the Bank must begin to hike rates pre-emptively due to the lagged effect of monetary tightening.

Measures of annual core inflation, a key indicator tracked by the Bank of Canada, which excludes volatile components such as food and energy, fell to its lowest in almost two decades. The average of the central bank’s three core measures declined to 1.3 percent, its lowest level since March 1999. The Bank has recently played down sluggish inflation numbers, suggesting they reflect the lagged effects of past excess capacity. Incoming inflation figures have been well below the Bank’s forecasts and will likely remain low for some time as oil prices are wobbling downward and wage inflation is a mere 1.3 percent–just keeping up with core inflation.

Last Friday’s continued strong employment report for June cinched the rate-hike. Employment rose a hefty 45,300, lifting the 12-month gain to a whopping 350,000 and trimming the jobless rate to match the cycle low of 6.5%. What’s more, total hours worked surged in the second quarter at the fastest rate since 2003. GDP climbed an impressive 3.3% year-over-year in April, while record levels of exports and imports suggest activity stayed on track in May, and further record highs for auto sales suggest consumers kept right on spending in June. Spending strength is yet another sign that after two years of lagging behind, Canada’s overall growth rate has come bouncing back in the past year to surpass the U.S. pace. The Bank now expects the output gap to close around year end.

Markets have been expecting this move for some time, as monetary policymakers have publicly stated that the 2015 interest-rate cuts appear to have done their job. Governor Stephen Poloz has said that the Canadian economy enjoyed “surprisingly” strong growth in the first three months of this year and that he expects the growth pace to remain above potential (estimated at 1-3/4 percent), setting the stage for this rate hike. In response, Canadian bond yields have moved higher, the Canadian dollar has surged anew, and the big Canadian banks raised mortgage rates by roughly 20 basis points last week in anticipation of this move. The 5-year Government of Canada bond yield has surged nearly 50 basis points in the past month. Indeed, 10-year government yields are up to roughly 1.9 percent, their highest yield in more than two years. The Canadian dollar surged to above 77.5 cents, the strongest level in 10 months, up more than 6 percent from the lows in early May. Stalling oil prices may reverse some of the loonie’s recent gain.

The big banks will also raise their prime rates, driving up the cost of variable rate mortgages, other loans and lines of credit tied to the benchmark rate. While the banks shaved their response to the interest rate cuts to less than the 25 basis points decline when monetary policy was easing, it is likely now that banks will adjust lending rates to close to the full 25 basis point increase. This asymmetric response is consistent with the desire of regulators to slow the growth in household debt.

Housing is one crucial component of the Canadian economy, and it has slowed meaningfully at the national level, in line with the central bank’s expectations. Prices and sales have declined in the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding municipalities since the Ontario Fair Housing Plan announcement in late April. However, housing activity has gained momentum in Montreal and Ottawa, while Alberta stabilizes and Vancouver posted a modest bounceback from the swoon following its August 2016 imposition of a foreign buyers’ tax. The underlying strength in many housing markets is the reason why policymakers are proposing new rules to tighten mortgage lending. This time OSFI–the regulator of financial institutions–is proposing that banks stress test non-insured borrowers at two percentage points above the contract rate. This despite the fact that non-insured borrowers are putting at least 20 percent down on their home purchase. A small BoC rate hike would reinforce the multi-faceted steps to calm the broader housing market.

The Bank has repeatedly stated that “macroprudential and other policy measures have contributed to more sustainable debt profiles,” even though household debt-to-income levels have hit a record high (see chart).












Uncertainties, of course, persist–particularly on the trade side as NAFTA is renegotiated in fewer than 90 days. The U.S. has already imposed duties on softwood lumber, and President Trump’s rhetoric remains hostile, threatening U.S. import duties on steel and other products. These uncertainties notwithstanding, I expect another Bank of Canada rate hike in the fourth quarter. The Federal Reserve will also likely increase rates in Q4. Look for a slow crawl upward in interest rates from both central banks in 2018.

7 Jul

Continued Strength in Canadian Employment Report For June by Sherry Cooper

Latest News

Posted by: Vladimir Britch

The June jobs data blew past expectations, all but insuring that the Bank of Canada will hike interest rates by a quarter point next week–the first rate hike in seven years. Market rates have already risen in expectation and the Royal Bank has boosted interest rates on its two-year, three-year and five-year fixed-term mortgage rates up by 20 basis points each. The Canadian economy has been performing well with 3.7% growth in GDP in the first quarter and the second quarter gain is now likely to be roughly 2-3/4%. The Bank of Canada has been signalling a rate hike for a few weeks, despite continued low inflation, as incoming economic data have been surprisingly strong. This has boosted the Canadian dollar, now trading at about 77.4 cents US even as oil prices have weakened to under $44.00 a barrel (WTI).

Higher mortgage rates will come on the heels of a marked slowdown in the housing market in the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding region. According to data released this week by the Toronto Real Estate Board, June resales activity continued its abrupt slowdown, which began with the April 21 imposition of a foreign buyer’s tax in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Over the same period, sellers have increased sharply as new listings and active listings have surged, putting downward pressure on average home prices. Year-over-year gains in house prices have more than halved from a 30% y/y gain in March to less than 15% most recently. The Ontario government actions to slow housing have clearly had a marked psychological impact as both buyers and sellers perceive that housing has peaked. Moreover, recent proposals by the bank regulator, to stress test mortgage applicants for non-insured loans (where downpayments are 20% or more) on the same basis as for insured loans will also dampen housing activity.

Employment rose by 45,400 in June, mostly in part-time work. The jobless rate fell by 0.1 percentage point to 6.5% nationwide. Compared to twelve months earlier, there were 351,000 (1.9%) more people working, where most of the growth was in full-time employment. The total number of hours worked increased 1.4% over this period.

Job growth in Canada in the second quarter posted the fourth consecutive quarter of stronger-than-anticipated gains and the strongest quarterly growth since 2010. Job gains have accelerated this year from its 2016 pace.
Average hourly wages of permanent employees rose 1.0% in June from a year earlier, matching the pace for May. For all workers, wages rose 1.3% over that period. The pace of wage gains, a closely watched indicator of the health of the labour market, had slowed to a record low in April, and the recent acceleration will reinforce speculation the time has come for higher interest rates.



Quebec and British Columbia led the way in job gains. The Quebec unemployment rate held steady at a record-low 6.0%. In BC, employment rose by 20,000 and the jobless rate declined 0.5 percentage points to 5.1%, the lowest provincial unemployment rate in Canada. In Ontario, there was little change in the number of people working, and the unemployment rate was also little changed at 6.4%. On a year-over-year basis, employment in the province grew by 75,000 (+1.1%). Employment in Ontario was virtually unchanged in the first half of 2017, following an upward trend in the second half of 2016.

More people were employed in professional, scientific and technical services, as well as in agriculture. At the same time, employment declined in business, building and other support services.



U.S. Hiring Accelerates While Wage Growth Remains Flat
Payrolls increased by 222,000 in June in the US, stronger than expected, but the jobless rate increased to 4.4% from a 16-year low of 4.3% as the robust labour market pulled discouraged workers off the sidelines. The labour force participation rate–the share of working-age people in the labour force–which had fallen to record lows in the wake of the financial crisis and recession, has now increased to 62.8%, but it is still near its lowest level in more than 30 years. The U-6 measure of underemployment, which includes discouraged workers and those who are involuntarily working less than full-time, rose to 8.6% from 8.4%, the first increase since January.

The report marks a relatively strong finish for the labour market in the second quarter that should support continued gains in consumer spending in coming months. Federal Reserve policy makers raised interest rates last month and reiterated plans to start reducing their balance sheet and increase borrowing costs once more this year.
Wages showed declines in nondurable-goods manufacturing, professional and business services; small gains in retail, transportation and warehousing; overall wages in the US are rising at 2% three-month annualized pace. Inflation remains below the 2% Fed target, but Fed rate hikes at a measured pace will continue.


6 Jul

But I’m Only a Co-signor! By: Sean Binkley

Mortgage Tips

Posted by: Vladimir Britch

You have a family member that doesn’t qualify for a mortgage on their own and needs a co-signor. Since you’re a nice person, and of course would like to see your son/daughter/parent/sibling in a better position, you agree to co-sign for the mortgage.

If I had a dollar for anytime I’ve heard the phrase “but I’m only co-signing right, they can’t come after me for the money or touch my house?” I’d be rich!

There are many common myths around co-signing. Here’s only a few and the truths associated with each one…

  • I’m only co-signing for my family member to get the mortgage and that I won’t have to ever make payments. False: You are equally responsible for making the payment on the mortgage. If the borrowers default, you will be required to pay.
  • I can’t be sued for non-payment since it’s not my mortgage. False: The lender has all legal collection methods available to them to collect payment from you, including obtaining judgment in court and possible garnishment of wages and bank accounts.
  • The bank can’t take my house if the borrower loses theirs. False: As per the second myth above, judgment action can also involve seizure and sale of any of your assets including and not limited to your own home.
  • I’m only a co-signor or a guarantor so I’m protected from not having to pay. False: Whether you are the borrower, co-signor, or guarantor, you are fully responsible for the debt.
  • Co-signing on this debt won’t affect my ability to obtain credit in the future. False: Not only will you legally have to declare the co-signed debt when you apply for credit, but also most lenders in Canada are now reporting to the credit bureau and it will appear when you apply. Either way, the mortgage payment must be factored into your debt service ratio.
  • Since this is only a five-year term, I am automatically released from this mortgage in five years. False: Regardless of term, you remain on the mortgage until it is paid in full or released only with approval from the lender.

Here’s a few tips and questions to ask before agreeing to co-sign on a mortgage…

  • Know the borrowers’ situation. What is there credit like? Are they drowning in debt? Why exactly is a co-signor required?
  • Is there an exit strategy to have your name released and how long will that take?
  • Add your name to title of the property so that the borrower cannot add a second mortgage to it. This is an asset that you have an interest in and therefore should protect it.
  • Get independent legal advice about your obligations as a consignor.
  • Be prepared to make the mortgage payments of the borrower doesn’t.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no to co-signing if it doesn’t feel right.


Knowledge of the borrowers situation, your obligations, and potential ways to protect yourself (and of course setting emotions aside) is the best advice for anyone co-signing. And if you have any questions, please contact your local Dominion Lending Centres mortgage specialist.