Housing Dampened Economy in Q2

General Bob Rees 31 Aug

“……. and forward guidance will continue to suggest no rate hikes until the second half of next year. ”  Thank you for the analysis Dr Cooper


Housing Dampened Economy in Q2
This morning’s Stats Canada release showed that the economy unexpectedly contracted in the second quarter by 1.1%, down from the revised 5.5% gain in the first three months of the year. The Canadian dollar dipped on the news to $.7921 as questions of resiliency in the face of the delta variant mount. Economists in a Bloomberg survey were anticipating a 2.5% expansion. Adding to the disappointment, economic growth fell a further 0.4% in July, according to a preliminary estimate.

The weak GDP data reduces the odds of the Bank of Canada tapering their bond purchases at their policy meeting on September 8th. It also highlights the output gap–the degree to which the economy remains below full economic capacity–remains a big issue. The Bank has forecast the gap to close by the middle of 2022. While that remains uncertain, we continue to expect growth to rebound in the third quarter.

Increases in investment in business inventories, government final consumption expenditures, business investment in machinery and equipment, and investment in new home construction and renovation were not sufficient to offset the declines in exports (-4.0%) and homeownership transfer costs (-17.7%), which include all costs associated with the transfer of a residential asset from one owner to another.

Housing investment reshapes the economySince the third quarter of 2020, housing investment has emerged as the predominant contributor to economic activities and capital stock—with residential capital stock surpassing non-residential capital stock. Moreover, the average housing investment for the previous four quarters was 17% higher than the average over the last five years.

Housing Investment

Both new construction and renovations—the components of residential capital stock—have shown sustained growth since the third quarter of 2020. Because of the ability to work from home, savings from less travel and reduced participation in other activities, low mortgage rates and increases in home equity lines of credit, spending has continued to increase on new houses (+3.2%) and home renovations (+2.4%).After taking on $62.3 billion of residential mortgage debt in the last half of 2020, households added $84.2 billion more residential housing debt in the first half of 2021.

Supply chain disruptions continue to impact motor vehiclesShortages of microchips and other inputs curtailed trade in motor vehicles and domestic consumption. Household purchases of new passenger cars (-7.2%) and trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles (-1.6%) decreased, while business investment in medium and heavy trucks, buses and other motor vehicles fell 34.2%. Longer plant shutdowns because of international supply chain disruptions have constrained imports of parts and led to significant decreases in exports. Low production of motor vehicles and parts resulted in an 18.9% drop in exports of passenger cars and light trucks and an 8.7% decline in tires, motor vehicle engines and parts exports. Inventories had another quarter of significant drawdowns in response to supply needs.

Double-digit household savings rate continuesThe modest rise in household spending (+0.7%, in nominal terms) was outpaced by growth in disposable income (+2.2%), leaving households with more net savings than in the previous quarter. Household incomes were primarily bolstered by employees’ rising compensation and increasing transfers received from the government, which were partially offset by a 2.8% rise in personal income taxes.

Consequently, the savings rate reached 14.2%—the fifth consecutive quarter with a double-digit savings rate—as various pandemic-related restrictions and uncertainty continued to limit the scope of household consumption. The household savings rate is aggregated across all income brackets; in general, savings rates are greater in higher income brackets.

Bottom Line

Today’s release is, in some respects, ‘ancient history.’ It is still widely expected that the economy will rebound in the third quarter. With the surge in household savings and continued growth in personal disposable income, pent-up demand is likely to boost consumption for the remainder of this year. All eyes will be on the August employment report released Friday, September 10th. The Bank of Canada will likely continue to proceed cautiously. Another tapering of the bond-buying program will come under scrutiny, and forward guidance will continue to suggest no rate hikes until the second half of next year.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres

Residential Market Commentary – A nuanced but notable signal from the U.S. Fed

General Bob Rees 30 Aug

Great insight from First National, one of our preferred lending partners. 

Residential Market Commentary – A nuanced but notable signal from the U.S. Fed


Anyone trying to forecast the course of interest rates in Canada is advised to keep one eye on what is happening in the United States.

On Friday the Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, sent a noteworthy signal.  During his address to the Jackson Hole Economic Symposium Powell announced that key aspects of the U.S. economy are showing good improvement, and the central bank could start reducing economic stimulus later this year.

Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. Fed has been working to keep money flowing through the economy by purchasing US$ 120-billion in government bonds every month.  The, so-called, “quantitative easing” is an effort to hold interest rates down and encourage borrowing and spending.

Economists have pointed to a rollback in “Q-E” as a precursor to possible interest rate increases.  The Bank of Canada has trimmed its quantitative easing twice since April, and has projected interest rates could start to rise in the second half of next year.

The U.S. Fed had been saying it did not see interest rate increases coming until later in 2023.  But the Friday’s comments from Powell did not include a timeline for “Q-E” cuts or rate hikes.

Inflation – one of the key factors in setting interest rates – has been spiking in both Canada and the U.S. as the economies recover.  But the central banks in both counties say it is just temporary as production and supply chains get back to normal.

As always, the course of the pandemic remains the wildcard in any economic planning and forecasting.



  • First National Financial LP
  • August 30, 2021

Annual Inflation Hits 3.7% in Canada–A New Election Issue

General Bob Rees 18 Aug

Annual Inflation Hits 3.7% in Canada–A New Election Issue
This morning’s Stats Canada release showed that the July CPI surged to a 3.7% year-over-year pace, well above the 3.1% pace recorded in June. This is now the fourth consecutive month in which inflation is above the1% to 3% target band of the Bank of Canada. And given the flash election, opposition parties are already making hay. “The numbers released today make it clear that under Justin Trudeau, Canadians are experiencing a cost of living crisis,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said in a statement. He went on to suggest that the Liberal government is stoking inflation with its debt-financed government spending programs.

While it is true that deficit spending has surged during the pandemic, the same is also true for nearly every country in the world. Moreover, accelerating inflation is a global phenomenon and most central banks believe it to be temporary. Certainly, Tiff Macklem is firmly of that view, as is the Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Supply disruptions and base effects have largely caused the rise in inflation. Semiconductor production, for example, slumped during the 2020 lockdowns, and then couldn’t be ramped up fast enough when demand for cars and electronics returned, leading the prices of new and used autos to rise at a record pace. Prices for airfares and hotel stays also jumped. Companies found themselves short of workers as they reopened, leading some to offer bonuses or boost wages and subsequently raise prices for consumers.

Central bankers believe that the price pressures are transitory, representing temporary shocks associated with the reopening of the economy.  Lumber prices, for example, spiked when demand for new homes returned and have since normalized (see the chart below). To be sure, above-target inflation has heightened uncertainty. The central banks do not want to choke off the economic recovery through misplaced inflation fears. Many Canadians remain out of work, and long-term unemployment is still very high. Moreover, the recent surge of the delta variant proves that the recovery is uncertain.

Governor Tiff Macklem, whose latest forecasts show inflation creeping up to 3.9% in the third quarter before easing at the end of the year, has warned against overreacting to the  “temporary” spike.

Shelter Prices Rising Fastest

Prices rose faster year over year in six of the eight major components of Canadian inflation in July, with shelter prices contributing the most to the all-items increase. Conversely, prices for clothing and footwear and alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and recreational cannabis slowed on a year-over-year basis in July compared with June.Year over year, gasoline prices rose less in July (+30.9%) than in June (+32.0%). A base-year effect continued to impact the gasoline index, as prices in July 2020 increased 4.4% on a month-over-month basis when many businesses and services reopened.

In July 2021, gasoline prices increased 3.5% month over month, as oil production by OPEC+ (countries from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries Plus) remained below pre-pandemic levels though global demand increased.

The homeowners’ replacement cost index, which is related to the price of new homes, continued to trend upward, rising 13.8% year over year in July, the largest yearly increase since October 1987.

Similarly, the other owned accommodation expenses index, which includes commission fees on the sale of real estate, was up 13.4% year over year in July.

Year-over-year price growth for goods rose at a faster pace in July (+5.0%) than in June (+4.5%), with durable goods (+5.0%) accelerating the most. The purchase of passenger vehicles index contributed the most to the increase, rising 5.5% year over year in July. The gain was partially attributable to the global shortage of semiconductor chips.

Prices for upholstered furniture rose 13.4% year over year in July, largely due to lower supply and higher input costs.

Core MeasuresThe average of core inflation readings, a better gauge of underlying price pressures, rose to 2.47% in July, the highest since 2009.

Monthly, prices rose 0.6% versus a consensus estimate of 0.3%. Rising costs to own a home are one of the biggest contributors to the elevated inflation rate, following a surge in real-estate prices over the past year.

Bottom Line

Today’s inflation data likely did little to alter the Bank of Canada’s view that above-target inflation will be a transitory phenomenon. They are already ahead of most central banks in tapering the stimulus coming from quantitative easing. They do not expect to start increasing interest rates until the labour markets have returned to full employment, which they judge to occur in the second half of 2022. In the meantime, pent-up demand in Canada is huge as people tap into their involuntary savings during the lockdown to pay higher prices at restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations. Financial markets appear to be sanguine about the prospect for rate hikes, as bond yields have been trading in a very narrow range.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres

The Slowdown In Canadian Housing Continued in July

General Bob Rees 16 Aug


The Slowdown In Canadian Housing Continued in July
Today the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) released statistics showing national existing home sales fell 3.5% nationally from June to July 2021–the fourth consecutive monthly decline. Over the same period, the number of newly listed properties dropped 8.8%, and the MLS Home Price Index rose 0.6% and was up 22.2% year-over-year.
While sales are now down a cumulative 28% from the March peak, Canadian housing markets are still historically quite active (see Chart below). In July, the decline in sales activity was not as widespread geographically as in prior months, although sales were down in roughly two-thirds of all local markets. Edmonton and Calgary led the slowdown, but these cities didn’t experience falling sales until recently. In Montreal, in contrast, where sales began to moderate at the start of the year, activity edged up in July.

The actual (not seasonally adjusted) number of transactions in July 2021 was down 15.2% on a year-over-year basis from the record for that month set last July. July 2021 sales nonetheless still marked the second-best month of July on record.

“While the moderation of sales activity continues to capture most of the headlines these days, it’s record-low inventories that should be our focus,” said Cliff Stevenson, Chair of CREA. Most markets are in sellers’ market territory.

New ListingsThe number of newly listed homes dropped by 8.8% in July compared to June, with declines led by Canada’s largest cities – the GTA, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. Across the country, new supply was down in about three-quarters of all markets in July.

This was enough to noticeably tighten the sales-to-new listings ratio despite sales activity also slowing on the month. The national sales-to-new listings ratio was 74% in July 2021, up from 69.9% in June. The long-term average for the national sales-to-new listings ratio is 54.7%.

Based on a comparison of sales-to-new listings ratio with long-term averages, the tightening of market conditions in July tipped a small majority of local markets back into seller’s market territory, reversing the trend of more balanced markets seen in June.

Another piece of evidence that conditions may be starting to stabilize was the number of months of inventory. There were 2.3 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of July 2021, unchanged from June. This is extremely low – still indicative of a strong seller’s market at the national level and most local markets. The long-term average for this measure is twice where it stands today.

Home PricesThe Aggregate Composite MLS® Home Price Index (MLS® HPI) rose 0.6% month-over-month in July 2021, continuing the trend of decelerating month-over-month growth that began in March. That deceleration has yet to show up in any noticeable way on the East Coast, where property is relatively more affordable.

Additionally, a more recent point worth noting (and watching) just in the last month has seen prices for certain property types in certain Ontario markets look like they might be re-accelerating. This could be in line with a re-tightening of market conditions in some areas.

The non-seasonally adjusted Aggregate Composite MLS® HPI was up 22.2% on a year-over-year basis in July. While still a substantial gain, it was, as expected, down from the record 24.4% year-over-year increase in June. The reason the year-over-year comparison has started to fall is that we are now more than a year removed from when prices really took off last year, so last year’s price levels are now catching up with this year’s, even though prices are currently still rising from month to month.

Looking across the country, year-over-year price growth averages around 20% in B.C., though it is lower in Vancouver and higher in other parts of the province. Year-over-year price gains in the 10% range were recorded in Alberta and Saskatchewan, while gains are closer to 15% in Manitoba. Ontario sees an average year-over-year rate of price growth in the 30% range. However, as with B.C., gains are notably lower in the GTA and considerably higher in most other parts of the province. The opposite is true in Quebec, where Montreal is in the 25% range, and Quebec City is in the 15% range. Price growth is running a little above 30% in New Brunswick, while Newfoundland and Labrador is in the 10% range.

Bottom Line

Sales activity will continue to gradually cool over the next year, but it will take higher interest rates to soften the housing market in a meaningful way. Local housing markets are cooling off as prospective buyers contend with a dearth of houses for sale. Though increasing vaccination rates have begun to bring a return to normal life in Canada, that’s left the country to contend with one of the developed world’s most severe housing shortages and little prospect of much new supply becoming available soon.

Dr. Sherry Cooper, Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres

Canada’s Jobs Recovery Continued in July

General Bob Rees 9 Aug

Thank you Dr. Cooper for the great analysis!


Canada’s labour market continued its recovery in July as health restrictions were lifted, but the gains were shy of expectations. The report signals the economic rebound is intact and shows companies are finding workers as pandemic restrictions vanish. The smaller-than-expected increase, though, could cast some doubt on the pace of hiring. The gains last month were largely in full-time private-sector employment, particularly among youth and women.

The  Labour Force Survey showed employment rose 94,000 (+0.5%) in July, adding to the 231,000 (+1.2%) increase in June. The two months reversed the 275,000 jobs lost during lockdowns in April and May. Of the three million jobs lost at the start of the crisis, 2.74 million have now been recovered. The employment rate was 60.3% in July, still 1.5 percentage points below the pre-pandemic rate.

The unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage points to 7.5%, matching the post-February 2020 low hit earlier this year.

Employment growth in July was almost entirely in Ontario. Youth aged 15 to 24 and core-aged women aged 25 to 54 accounted for the bulk of gains in the month. Women were hardest hit by the pandemic’s loss of childcare/schooling, so the make-up of employment gains will likely be skewed towards them.

The number of employed people who worked less than half their usual hours fell by 116,000 (-10.1%) in July. Total hours worked were up 1.3% and were 2.7% below their pre-pandemic level.

Self-employment was little changed in July and was down 7.1% (-205,000) compared with February 2020. The number of self-employed workers has seen virtually no growth since the onset of the pandemic.

The number of employees in the public sector fell by 31,000 (-0.7%) in July, the first decline since April 2020. Nearly half of the monthly decrease was in Quebec (-15,000; -1.5%) and was partly due to a larger-than-usual summer decrease in the number of educational services workers. Despite this decline, public sector employment at the national level was up 150,000 (+3.8%) compared with February 2020.

In terms of provinces, Ontario accounted for the majority of July’s improvement, as employment increased by 72k in the province. Manitoba (+7k), Nova Scotia (+4k), and Prince Edward Island (+1k) also saw employment advance on the month. New Brunswick (-3k), Saskatchewan (-5k), and B.C. (-3k) lost jobs in July.

Lastly, total hours worked improved by a robust 1.3% in July, but it is still 2.7% below its pre-pandemic level.

The Canadian jobs report coincided with the release on Friday of surprisingly strong U.S. payroll numbers, where 943,000 positions were added last month.

Bottom Line According to the Bank of Canada, employment will need to surpass pre-pandemic levels before complete recovery is declared because the population has grown since the start of the crisis.

July was another solid month for the Canadian labour market as the loosening of public health restrictions across the country spurred hiring activity. That said, capacity limits and travel restrictions held back high-touch businesses from operating at full capacity, limiting job gains in July.

Indeed, employment in high-touch services is still well below pre-pandemic levels. Even with gains in July, accommodation and food services employment was nearly 20% below its February 2020 level. It’s important to note that July’s labour survey was taken during the week of July 11th, and restrictions in some provinces were loosened at the end of that week. So, we could see the recovery continue to strengthen in August.

There are growing headwinds, however. Concerns around the Delta variant are rising, and some countries, harder hit by the virus, are re-imposing restrictions. Canada has not yet been compelled to do so due to low hospitalization levels, but cases are rising. While the impressive vaccination drive should keep hospitalization rates low, health worries could dent consumer and business confidence. Indeed, the economy’s path forward will be closely linked to the evolution of the pandemic.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres

Residential Market Commentary – What’s ahead for interest rates

General Bob Rees 9 Aug

Thank you to one of our preferred lenders, First National, for the below insight : )



Aug 9, 2021

First National Financial LP


The Bank of Canada is not making its next rate announcement until September. That has market watchers looking to other indicators as they attempt to foresee what is coming for the economy and interest rates.

The latest significant news was good, but modest. Canada’s unemployment rate dipped to 7.5% with the creation of 94,000 jobs in July. Most of those are full-time and in the private sector.

Employment levels are linked to inflation, which is a key factor watched by the Bank of Canada in setting interest rate policy which, in turn, can affect mortgage rates.

As the labour market tightens up, employers tend to offer higher wages to attract workers. That increases the cost of producing goods and services, driving inflation. As well, as more people get work and earn more money demand for goods and services increases. If that demand outpaces supply, inflation can also result.

Canada finds itself in this position now. Inflation is running high chiefly because of supply constraints caused by the pandemic. At the same time, more and more people are heading back to work.

That has some analysts forecasting the Bank of Canada will be raising rates to calm inflation. The Bank, however, has been saying otherwise.

It is also useful to watch what is happening in the United States. The two economies are tightly linked and actions in the U.S. can offer useful clues about what will happen here.

In its latest assessment of the American economy the U.S. Federal Reserve continued to down play inflation – which is running high there as well – as “transitory”. The Fed continues to look to the second half of 2023 as the most likely time for any possible rate hikes. While the Bank of Canada has said it expects rates could start rising as much as a year sooner than that, it would be unusual for the BoC to move before the Fed.