The Bank of Canada announced on January 23rd, 2013 that it is keeping its key policy interest rate at 1 per cent, where it has been held for more than two years. In providing guidance on where interest rates are heading, the Bank said interest rate hikes are “less imminent than previously anticipated.”
The Bank acknowledged that Canadian economic growth slowed more abruptly in the second half of 2012 than it had previously anticipated. It also recognized a marked deceleration in the growth of household debt, moderation in the housing sector, and softer than expected inflation.
The Bank now expects inflation to return to its 2 per cent target sometime in the second half of 2014. That represents a significant weakening in the Bank’s outlook for inflation; in October, the Bank expected inflation to return to target by the end of 2013. Consumer Price Inflation rose by 0.8 per cent in November 2012.
The Bank said it still expects the Canadian economy to gain strength this year, but it lowered its forecast for economic growth to just 2 per cent in 2013. By contrast, its growth forecast for 2014 was raised to 2.7 per cent versus its previous forecast reading of 2.4 per cent contained in its previous Monetary Policy Report (MPR) published in October 2012.
The bottom line is that economic growth is expected to remain modest but positive, consistent with low inflation and low interest rates. At the same time, growth in household debt burdens, which the Bank has repeatedly flagged as a major risk in this low interest rate environment, is showing positive signs of topping out as housing market activity continues to stabilize at a more sustainable levels. Combined with extremely well anchored expectations for inflation, that means the Bank is in no hurry to raise interest rates anytime soon, with the first such move in that direction unlikely to be for at least another year.
As of January 23rd, 2012, the advertised five-year lending rate stood at 5.24 per cent. It has been unchanged at this level since the beginning of June 2012.
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