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BLOG / NEWS Updates

Sep 18


CREA Updates Resale Housing Forecast

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has updated its forecast for home sales activity via the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Systems of Canadian real estate Boards and Associations for 2014 and 2015. The deferral of sales and listings during an extraordinarily bleak winter delayed the start to the spring home buying season earlier this year. This deferral boosted activity in May and June as properties were snapped up after finally hitting the market, particularly in markets with a shortage of listings. Although this boost was and still is expected to be transitory, sales have yet to show signs of cooling as activity strengthened slightly further over the summer. The increase reflects continuing strength in home sales among large urban markets that initially drove the spring rebound together with gains in markets where activity had previously struggled to gain traction. Lowered mortgage interest rates supported this trend. Sales are now forecast to reach 475,000 units in 2014, representing an increase of 3.8 per cent compared to2013. This is upwardly revised from CREAs forecast of 463,400 sales published in June, and reflects stronger than expected sales in recent months. Even so, sales activity is expected to peak in the third quarter as the impact of a deferred spring dissipates and continuing home price increases erode housing affordability. This would place activity in 2014 slightly above but still broadly in line with its 10-year average. Despite periods of monthly volatility since the recession of 2008-09, annual activity has remained stable within a fairly narrow range around its 10-year average. This stability contrasts sharply to the rapid growth in sales in the early 2000s prior to the recession. British Columbia is forecast to post the largest year-over-year increase in activity (11.9 per cent) followed closely by Alberta (7.7 per cent). Demand in both of these provinces is currently running at multi-year highs. Activity in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick is expected to come in roughly in line with 2013 levels, with sales increases ranging between one and two per cent in the first three provinces and edging lower by about one per cent lower sales in the latter two provinces. Sales in Nova Scotia and in Newfoundland and Labrador are projected to be down this year by 3.9 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively. Mortgage interest rates are expected to edge higher as Canadian exports, business investment, job growth, and incomes improve. These opposing factors should benefit housing markets where demand has been softer but prices have remained more affordable. Sales in relatively less affordable housing markets are likely to be more sensitive to higher fixed mortgage rates. National activity is now forecast to reach 473,100 units in 2015, representing a decline of four tenths of one per cent. Sales activity is forecast to grow fastest in Nova Scotia (+3.3 per cent), followed by Quebec (+1.3 per cent) and New Brunswick (+1.3 per cent). Alberta is the only other province forecast to post higher sales next year (+1.0 per cent). In other provinces, activity is forecast to decline in the range of between one and two per cent. In British Columbia and Ontario, this trend reflects eroding affordability for single family homes. The national average price has evolved largely as expected since the spring, resulting in little change to CREAs previous forecast. The national average home price is now projected to rise by 5.9 per cent to $405,000 in 2014, with similar price gains in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario. Increases of just below three per cent are forecast for Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island. Newfoundland and Labrador is forecast to see average home price rise by about one per cent this year, while Quebec is forecast to see an increase half that size. Prices are forecast to be flat in New Brunswick and recede by almost two per cent and Nova Scotia. The national average price is forecast to edge up a further 0.7 per cent in 2015 to $407,900. Alberta and Manitoba are forecast to post average price gains of almost two per cent in 2015, followed closely by Ontario at 1.3 per cent. Average prices in other provinces are forecast to remain stable, edging up by less than one percentage point.

Sep 16


New tax relief will save small businesses more than half a billion dollars over two years

Minister of Finance Joe Oliver announced more action by the Harper Government to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity: the introduction of the new Small Business Job Credit which is expected to save small businesses more than $550 million over the next two years. The Small Business Job Credit will effectively lower small businesses Employment Insurance (EI) premiums from the current legislated rate of $1.88 to $1.60 per $100 of insurable earnings in 2015 and 2016. Any firm that pays employer EI premiums equal to or less than $15,000 in those years will be eligible for the credit. Almost 90% of all EI premium-paying businesses in Canada will receive the credit, reducing their EI payroll taxes by nearly 15%. The Canada Revenue Agency will automatically calculate the credit on a business return, ensuring no new paper burden will be imposed on business owners. In addition, all employers and employees will benefit from a substantial reduction in the EI premium rate in 2017 when the new seven-year break-even rate-setting mechanism takes effect. This will ensure that EI premiums are no higher than needed to pay for the EI program over time. Quick Facts Canada has created more than 1.1 million net new jobs since the height of the recessionone of the strongest job creation records in the Group of Seven (G-7). In 2013, Canada leapt from sixth to second place in Bloombergs ranking of the most attractive destinations for business. According to KPMG, total business tax costs in Canada are the lowest in the G-7 and 46% lower than those in the United States. In September 2013, the Government announced a three-year freeze of the EI rate at its 2013 level of $1.88 to prevent it from rising to $1.93 in 2014, saving employers and employees an expected $660 million in 2014 alone.

Sep 11


Canadian economy can't sustain growth without low interest rates and a weaker dollar: CIBC

Unexpected growth in consumer spending and residential construction have seen the Canadian economy outperform in 2014, but continued low interest rates and a cheaper loonie are necessary to sustain growth going forward, finds a new report from CIBC World Markets. The report notes that while Canadas economy will see better than three per cent growth in both the second and third quarters, the drivers are not sustainable. Neither housing nor consumption funded from a falling savings rate can be the permanent drivers of growth, so all eyes will be on capital spending and exports, says Avery Shenfeld, Chief Economist at CIBC. The markets response will be less about getting two and a half per cent growth to close the output gap, than about the policy backdrop needed to do so. Mr. Shenfeld expects the U.S. economy to continue to improve and Canadas to track along with it but with the countries taking a differing approach to monetary policy. Were not at zero, so theres less urgency to begin dialing down the stimulus. But more critically, Bank of Canada Governor, Stephen Poloz wants growth led by exports and capital spending. Theres no specific FX target, but a weaker Canadian dollar will be a key ingredient in restoring competitiveness and making Canada an attractive place to expand capacity. He says this will be achieved by letting the U.S. eliminate the entire Canada-U.S. short-rate differential before we see even one Bank of Canada hike. A much weaker loonie could then allow the Bank to carry on to a 1.5 per cent overnight rate by year end 2015. Co-authors, Benjamin Tal and Nick Exarhos write that an improving economy stateside has already started to help Canadian exports. Geography always makes the U.S. key to Canada, but Americas outperformace vs. other G-7 countries is enhancing that dependence. In fact, exports destined to the U.S. market are already growing at a near 17 per cent year-on-year pace, while those destined elsewhere up by just under 11 per cent. However, much of the current momentum is coming from energy exports, now delivering a quarter of Canadas dollar value of outbound shipments. Estimates from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers suggest that black golds shine isnt likely to fade any time soon. Applying production estimates to their relatively stable historical relationship to exports destined for the U.S., suggests that Canada in 2016 will have exported more than 230 million additional barrels than it did in 2013. But energys growing share also reflects what was, until very recently, a lacklustre performance by other exporters. The Bank of Canada identified sectors like forestry products, machinery, aircraft products, and other electronics as key in carrying the next leg of Canadian export resurgence, but this group has actually trailed other non-energy exporters in the past year. A key factor in this is that many non-energy exports historically came from sectors sensitive to the exchange rate. The long period in which the Canadian dollar was overvalued led to exits of plants from this country, taking out the capacity that would now typically be responding to better news stateside. With the weaker value of the Canadian dollar providing a more competitive exchange rate and positive price shocks for some products such as food, the loonie-sensitive sectors have seen an 11.8 per cent gain in nominal exports in the past twelve months, vs. 8.7 per cent for other non-energy industries. But there is much more to do ahead, says Mr. Tal. There are lags before the full impact of the late 2013 depreciation will be fully felt by existing plants. And we will likely need even more time, and a still weaker exchange rate, to prompt the entry of new production facilities that can start to fill the void left by earlier exits. Thus far, after the steepest correction in the post-war period, and an initially strong rebound, capital spending is well below where it typically should be at this more mature stage of the cycle. And the issue is not capability. Our business capability index, which uses an array of indicators to measure the ability of Canadian firms to spend, is close to a record high. That suggests that financial limitations arent the culprit. Its all about the willingness to invest. He notes that Corporate Canada appears more inclined to spend on bricks and mortar or takeovers elsewhere. Foreign direct investment (FDI) by Canadian companies rose by a record high nine per cent in 2013the exact opposite of the decelerating growth trajectory in capital spending at home. The ratio of the outflow of FDI to capital expenditure is close to 20 per centagain a record high. But he says that at some point businesses have to invest in existing facilities at home. Right now a growing proportion of each capital spending dollar is devoted to replacement investments that simply maintain existing levels of production. The practical implication is that capital investment must rise much more quickly in order to accommodate both replacement and expansion investments. There are signs that, despite some reservations, spending is about to accelerate. Mr. Tal says the Bank of Canadas Business Index is now at a level that, in the past, was consistent with real business investment climbing by close to five per cent on an annual basis. Mr. Shenfeld says that with the backdrop, corporate earnings still have room to run. Our top-down model, which ties key economic indicators - such as Canadian and U.S. GDP and various resource prices - to bottom line results, projects TSX Composite earnings growth of 11 per cent in 2015. Thats above the historical average. Bond yields will provide some noisy volatility for stocks, but double digit earnings gains should still see major indexes close next year at moderately higher levels. The complete CIBC World Markets report is available at: http://research.cibcwm.com/economic_public/download/fsep14.pdf

Sep 9


Moving up out of "starter homes" getting much more difficult for Canadians

While, on average, Canadian house prices have climbed five per cent in 2014, a new report finds that price increases in mid- and high-priced homes are far outpacing those of lower-priced ones, which is making it increasingly more difficult for many Canadians to move up out of their starter homes. The value of bigger and pricier properties is rising notably faster than less expensive propertieswidening the gap between starter home and dream house, says Benjamin Tal, Deputy Chief Economist at CIBC. Regardless of what your starting point is, and by how much your property has appreciated, the desired move up target is getting further and further out of reach. He notes that, historically, most Canadians followed a well-known narrative. You graduate from school, land your first job, get married, buy your first house, start a family, and after a number of years, move up to a larger house to accommodate your growing family. However, there are many indications that this cycle that dominated the Canadian housing market for decades, is breaking, he points out. The report shows that, in Toronto, the price of homes in the $300,000 to $500,000 range rose, on average, about 28 per cent between the first quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2014. However, homes priced between $800,000 and $1.2 million jumped over 40 per cent and homes priced between $1.2 million and $1.6 million shot up better than 50 per cent in the same period. That means the family that paid $500,000 for a house in 2010 has seen their home value climb to about $640,000, a tidy $140,000 increase in value. The problem is the $800,000 home they want to move into has jumped by more than $300,000 to $1.12 million. Its a similar situation in other urban centres, including Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton, where the move up category has risen notably faster than the start-up category. In Vancouver, with the highest prices in the country, that gulf is even wider. Homes that sold for $500,000 to $800,00 have increased by only a few percentage points whereas homes prices at $1.1 million and higher have jumped by close to 18 per cent. The gap between these homes has grown by close to $200,000 in the last four years. Mr. Tal notes that while, on the surface, the volume of house resale activity in Canada looks stable - with unit sales fluctuating between 35,000 and 40,000 units per month since 2010 - it is anything but. This apparent stability masks a more complex story, he says. Sales of units at the low-to-mid price range fell notably since 2010. Sales rose modestly for the mid-to-high price range, and advanced rapidly for units in the upper end of the market. This picture of soft sales at the low-to-mid price range of the single-detached market has affordability written all over it. Tightening mortgage regulations in general, and the reduction in amortizations from 40 years to 25 years for high-ratio mortgages in particular, alongside rising prices worked to price out many first-time homebuyers that dominate activity in this price range. He found that the homeownership rate among Canadians aged 25-35 (first-time homebuyers) has fallen from 55 per cent in 2012 to the current 50 per cent. For those over the age of 35, the homeownership rate remained stable. There is also a big difference between markets with sales and price increases increasingly being driven by activity in the countrys large and pricy cities. Conversely, weve seen prices fall in Saint John, Qubec City and Victoria in the last year and overall more than one-fifth of sales are now in cities that see prices rising by less than the current rate of inflation. Homeowners in many of Canadas larger cities that cant afford a larger home - or wont get into bidding wars - are increasingly recognizing they will be in their first home for longer than expected. With limited move up options, its no surprise then that many Canadians choose to renovate their existing homes, says Mr. Tal. Over the past five years, spending on home renovations as a share of total residential investment averaged close to 46 per centby far the largest share on record. Renovation activity will remain robust and, in fact, might accelerate in the coming years. Mr. Tal says thatwhile home values will be tested when interest rates rise, the asymmetrical nature of the market, the stabilizing role played by the condo market in major urban centres - which is providing a cheaper alternative to single-detached units - and the significant constraints on land availability may all work to limit the damage. The complete CIBC World Markets report is available at: http://research.cibcwm.com/economic_public/download/if_2014-0908.pdf


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