Bank of Canada will hold current level of policy rate until inflation objective is sustainably achieved, continues quantitative easing
The Bank of Canada held its target for the overnight rate at the effective lower bound of percent, with the Bank Rate at percent and the deposit rate at percent. The Bank is maintaining its extraordinary forward guidance, reinforced and supplemented by its quantitative easing (QE) program, which continues at its current pace of at least $4 billion per week.
The global economy is recovering from the economic effects of COVID-19, albeit with ongoing unevenness across regions and sectors. The US economic recovery appears to be gaining momentum as virus infections decline and fiscal support boosts incomes and consumption. New fiscal stimulus will increase US consumption and output growth further. Global yield curves have steepened, largely reflecting the improved US growth outlook, but global financial conditions remain highly accommodative. Oil and other commodity prices have risen. The Canadian dollar has been relatively stable against the US dollar, but has appreciated against most other currencies.
In Canada, the economy is proving to be more resilient than anticipated to the second wave of the virus and the associated containment measures. Although activity in hard-to-distance sectors continues to be held back, recent data point to continued recovery in the rest of the economy. GDP grew 9.6% in the final quarter of 2020, led by strong inventory accumulation. GDP growth in the first quarter of 2021 is now expected to be positive, rather than the contraction forecast in January. Consumers and businesses are adapting to containment measures, and housing market activity has been much stronger than expected. Improving foreign demand and higher commodity prices have also brightened the prospects for exports and business investment.
Canadian home sales continue their momentum to start 2021
In January, Canadian home sales increased 2.0% month-on-month, building on Decembers 7.0% gain. On a year-on-year basis, they were up 35.2%.
Provincially, sales were up in 8 of 10 provinces in January, with strong gains recorded in PEI (+20.5% m/m) and Alberta (+11.9%). On the flipside, a relatively steep decline was recorded in Nova Scotia (-8.3%).
New listings dropped by 13.5% m/m in January. The combination of rising sales and falling new listings brought the months supply of inventory measure to under 1.9 months.
The national sales-to-new listings ratio also increased to 90.7% its highest level by far. Every province was in sellers territory in December, and many of those in the eastern part of Canada had ratios over 100% (Quebec: 128.3%; New Brunswick: 116.0%; Nova Scotia: 114.3% and PEI:101.5%). This means that there were more sales than new units listed last month in these provinces. This is a rare situation, but has occurred before in the Atlantic Provinces. However, January marked a first on this front in Quebec. Elsewhere, ratios were particularly elevated in Manitoba (86.1%) and Ontario (88.6).
Strong demand and historically tight conditions were reflected in prices. Indeed, Canadian average home prices surged by 4.7% m/m in January. On a year-on-year basis, they were up 22.8%, marking an acceleration from December. However, prices were up in 8 of 10 provinces during the month, with the largest gains occurring in Alberta (+8.1%) and Ontario (7.4%).
Compared with the average sales price, the MLS home price index, a more like for like measure, increased 2.0% m/m. Single family home prices rose 2.6% m/m (and a robust 17.4% y/y), whereas apartment prices advanced by a smaller 0.2% m/m (and decelerated to 3.3% y/y). In Toronto, apartment prices increased 0.4% m/m, the first gain in 4 months.
Home sales picked up right where they left off to start 2021. Demand was likely given a lift by ultra-low mortgage rates, which dropped again during the month. Januarys robust gain coupled with a strong handoff into this year virtually ensures that sales will increase in the first quarter. However, with sales likely running above fundamentally-supported levels, we think some cooling in activity will take place, especially in the second half. A dwindling supply of inventories, when benchmarked against the current sales pace, could also weigh on activity moving forward.
With todays data showing a solid gain in prices last month and new supply collapsing across nearly the entire country, markets were historically tight. This points to further strong price gains ahead in the near-term.
Also notable was that benchmark condo prices grew for the first time in several months in Toronto. Although supply remains elevated, conditions are becoming tighter than what we saw last fall. This suggests that further gains are in store.