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Canada: Prices still down in February
From National Bank of Canada
The Teranet-National Bank Index continued to decline in February so that the cumulative decline in prices since their peak in May 2022 totaled 11.2%, the largest contraction in the index ever recorded. The current decline in prices has even surpassed the 9.2% loss in value that occurred during the 2008 financial crisis. With the Bank of Canada expected to keep its policy rate in restrictive territory well into 2023 and mortgage rates remaining high, we believe that the impact on property prices should continue to be felt in the coming months. All in all, we still anticipate a total correction of about 15% nationally by the end of 2023, but this assumes that policy rate hikes are over and declines begin at year-end. Although corrections are being seen in all markets covered by the index, the CMAs that have seen the largest price growth over the past two years are also those that have seen the largest declines to date. Ontario, British Columbia and the Maritimes thus appear to be more vulnerable, while the Prairie markets are less vulnerable, as affordability issues are less acute.
The Teranet-National Bank Composite National House Price Index decreased by 0.5% in February compared to the previous month and after seasonal adjustment, the tenth consecutive monthly decrease.
After seasonal adjustment, 7 of the 11 markets in the composite index were down during the month: Toronto (-2.7%), Calgary (-2.4%), Halifax (-1.8%). Edmonton (-0.8%), Hamilton (-0.3%), Montreal (-0.3%) and Ottawa-Gatineau (-0.2%). Conversely, prices increased in Vancouver (+3.8%), Victoria (+1.9%) and Quebec City (+0.1%), while they remained stable in Winnipeg.
From February 2022 to February 2023, the composite index decreased by 4.7%, the second consecutive month in which the annual change in the index was in negative territory. Price increases in Calgary (8.8%), Quebec (5.0%). Edmonton (1.9%) and Montreal (0.8%) were entirely offset by decreases in Victoria (-1.4%), Ottawa-Gatineau (-2.3%), Winnipeg (-2.7%), Halifax (-3.2%), Vancouver (-3.9%), Toronto (-8.8%), and Hamilton (-14.0%).
Housing affordability: First improvement in over 2 years
For the first time in 9 quarters, housing affordability improved in Canada. Not only was it the largest improvement in over 3 years, but it also ended the longest sequence of declining home affordability since the 1986-89 episode. Still, that is not to say that the median home is now affordable in Canada as the mortgage payment as a percentage of income (MPPI) registered at 64.6%, the second highest level since 1981. Feeding into the refinement, home prices declined for a second consecutive quarter and did so at the fastest pace since 1990. Although our 5-year benchmark mortgage rate used to calculate affordability rose by 17 bps in the fourth quarter, that was more than compensated for by falling prices and still rising incomes. The slight rise in rates nonetheless brought the benchmark rate to its highest level since 2008. Preliminary data for the first quarter of 2023 as well as our outlook for monetary policy in Canada suggest that we may be peaking in terms of mortgage interest rates. The current level for interest rates is restrictive and signals that home price declines are not over yet. Moreover, incoming data for the first quarter of 2023 confirms that prices have weakened while resale market data from CREA indicates that sales have significantly declined with listings concurrently increasing. Given our view for further declines in home price and decreasing mortgage rates, we expect affordability to improve in the coming quarters.
Canadian housing affordability improved for the first time in 9 quarters in Q422. The mortgage payment on a representative home as a percentage of income (MPPI) declined 2.1 points, a pullback from the 4.0-point increase in Q322. Seasonally adjusted home prices decreased 3.9% in Q422 from Q322; the benchmark mortgage rate (5-year term) rose 17 bps, while median household income rose 1.0%.
Affordability improved in 8 of the ten markets covered in Q4. On a sliding scale of markets from best improvement to deterioration: Victoria, Hamilton, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa-Gatineau, Montreal, Winnipeg, Quebec, Edmonton, Calgary. This was the first time in 9 quarters that a majority of markets improved. Countrywide, affordability improved 0.6 pp in the condo portion vs. a 2.9 pp improvement in the non-condo segment.
Bank of Canada maintains policy rate, continues quantitative tightening
The Bank of Canada today held its target for the overnight rate at 4%, with the Bank Rate at 4% and the deposit rate at 4%. The Bank is also continuing its policy of quantitative tightening.
Global economic developments have evolved broadly in line with the outlook in the January Monetary Policy Report (MPR). Global growth continues to slow, and inflation, while still too high, is coming down due primarily to lower energy prices. In the United States and Europe, near-term outlooks for growth and inflation are both somewhat higher than expected in January. In particular, labour markets remain tight, and elevated core inflation is persisting. Growth in China is rebounding in the first quarter. Commodity prices have evolved roughly in line with the Banks expectations, but the strength of Chinas recovery and the impact of Russias war in Ukraine remain key sources of upside risk. Financial conditions have tightened since January, and the US dollar has strengthened.
In Canada, economic growth came in flat in the fourth quarter of 2022, lower than the Bank projected. With consumption, government spending and net exports all increasing, the weaker-than-expected GDP was largely because of a sizeable slowdown in inventory investment. Restrictive monetary policy continues to weigh on household spending, and business investment has weakened alongside slowing domestic and foreign demand.
The labour market remains very tight. Employment growth has been surprisingly strong, the unemployment rate remains near historic lows, and job vacancies are elevated. Wages continue to grow at 4% to 5%, while productivity has declined in recent quarters.
Inflation eased to 5.9% in January, reflecting lower price increases for energy, durable goods and some services. Price increases for food and shelter remain high, causing continued hardship for Canadians. With weak economic growth for the next couple of quarters, pressures in product and labour markets are expected to ease. This should moderate wage growth and also increase competitive pressures, making it more difficult for businesses to pass on higher costs to consumers.