The Bank of Canada announced this morning that it is holding the target for its overnight rate at 0.5 per cent. In the press release accompanying the decision, the Bank noted that economic growth has been faster than previously expected, boosted by what the Bank sees as temporary spending from the oil and gas recovery and a boost to consumer spending by the Canada Child Benefit. However, export growth remains challenged and business investment is low. Therefore, the Bank judges that it is too early to conclude that the economy has turned a corner. In addition, CPI inflation is trending below its 2 per cent target while the Bank’s three new measures of core inflation continue to drift lower.
That downward trending inflation, along with uncertainty in United States policy, seems to be the main barriers keeping the Bank from raising its benchmark overnight rate. While there is some remaining slack in the economy, as measured by the output gap, the Canadian economy has been growing well above the Bank’s estimate of potential growth (1.5 per cent) for three consecutive quarters including a first quarter 2017 in which available data points to above 4 per cent growth. In addition to strong GDP numbers, the economy is adding jobs at a rate of 35,000 per month over the past six months, the highest level of job growth since 2010. Should this momentum continue, it is likely we will begin to see a more hawkish Bank of Canada in the second half of the year and a first rate increase in early 2018.