Housing Market Monitor: Housing market slowed in August as interest rates weigh in
On a seasonally adjusted basis, home sales decreased 4.1% from July to August, a second monthly contraction in a row following the renewed monetary tightening cycle of the Bank of Canada.
On the supply side, new listings increased 0.8% in August, a fifth consecutive monthly increase. Another sign of a loss of momentum in the real estate market is the proportion of listings cancelled during the month, which continues to rise, a sign that some sellers are discouraged by recent interest rate hikes.
Overall, active listing increased by 1.9%, a third monthly gain in a row. As a result the number of months of inventory (active-listings to sales) increased from 3.2 in July to 3.4 in August. This continues to be higher than the trough of 1.7 reached in the pandemic but remains low on a historical basis.
The active-listings to sales ratio is still tighter than its historical average in every province.
Housing starts in Canada decreased slightly in August (-2.4K to 252.8K, seasonally adjusted and annualized), beating consensus expectations calling for a 250K print. Decreases in housing starts were seen in Ontario (-14.9K to 84.6K), Manitoba (-3.2K to 6.8K), and Nova Scotia (-2.5 to 3.2K). Meanwhile, increases were registered in Quebec (+14.8K to 53.1K), New Brunswick (+2.1 to 7.1K), Alberta (+1.1K to 39.6K), and Saskatchewan (+0.2K to 5.5), while starts in Newfoundland (1.1K), P.E.I. (1.2K), and B.C. (50.7K) remained unchanged.
The Teranet-National Bank Composite National House Price Index rose by 1.6% in August after seasonal adjustment. All 11 markets in the composite index were up during the month: Calgary (+3.5%), Vancouver (+2.8%) and Hamilton (+2. 4%) reported stronger-than-average growth, while Halifax (+1.4%), Quebec City (+1.3%), Toronto (+1.2%), Ottawa-Gatineau (+1.1%), Edmonton (+1.1%), Winnipeg (+0.7%), Montreal (+0.7%) and Victoria (+0.2%) were less vigorous.
Bank of Canada maintains policy rate, continues quantitative tightening
The Bank of Canada on Wednesday held its target for the overnight rate at 5%, with the Bank Rate at 5% and the deposit rate at 5%. The Bank is also continuing its policy of quantitative tightening.
Inflation in advanced economies has continued to come down, but with measures of core inflation still elevated, major central banks remain focused on restoring price stability. Global growth slowed in the second quarter of 2023, largely reflecting a significant deceleration in China. With ongoing weakness in the property sector undermining confidence, growth prospects in China have diminished. In the United States, growth was stronger than expected, led by robust consumer spending. In Europe, strength in the service sector supported growth, offsetting an ongoing contraction in manufacturing. Global bond yields have risen, reflecting higher real interest rates, and international oil prices are higher than was assumed in the July Monetary Policy Report (MPR).
The Canadian economy has entered a period of weaker growth, which is needed to relieve price pressures. Economic growth slowed sharply in the second quarter of 2023, with output contracting by 0.2% at an annualized rate. This reflected a marked weakening in consumption growth and a decline in housing activity, as well as the impact of wildfires in many regions of the country. Household credit growth slowed as the impact of higher rates restrained spending among a wider range of borrowers. Final domestic demand grew by 1% in the second quarter, supported by government spending and a boost to business investment. The tightness in the labour market has continued to ease gradually. However, wage growth has remained around 4% to 5%.
Recent CPI data indicate that inflationary pressures remain broad-based. After easing to 2.8% in June, CPI inflation moved up to 3.3% in July, averaging close to 3% in line with the Banks projection. With the recent increase in gasoline prices, CPI inflation is expected to be higher in the near term before easing again. Year-over-year and three-month measures of core inflation are now both running at about 3.5%, indicating there has been little recent downward momentum in underlying inflation. The longer high inflation persists, the greater the risk that elevated inflation becomes entrenched, making it more difficult to restore price stability.
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