The Bank of Canada kept its trend-setting Bank Rate at 1.25 per cent on April 17th, 2012. While this was the 13thconsecutive policy meeting in which borrowing costs have been left unchanged, it was the first time since last September that a policy announcement has included a reference to the possibility of a rate hike.
The Bank reiterated a number of the more positive developments it first mentioned in the March 8th announcement. These include a stronger profile for U.S. economic growth, as well as reduced risk emanating from Europe, which the Bank now expects will “emerge slowly from recession in the second half of 2012.”
The Bank also noted that “improved global economic prospects, supply disruptions and geopolitical risks,” are keeping oil prices up which if sustained could prove a risk to the improvement in economic momentum.
In Canada the Bank again declared the biggest risk to be high household debt, adding that it expects households will continue to add to their debt burden as “private domestic demand will account for almost all of Canada’s economic growth over the projection horizon.”
That said, with economic momentum in Canada remaining firmer than the Bank had expected back in January, the forecast for growth this year has been lifted. The Bank now expects the economy will grow at 2.4 per cent this year, up from the 2.0 per cent forecast in January.
At the same time, the Bank lowered its forecast for 2013 to 2.4 per cent from 2.8 per cent, and also extended its forecast out to 2014 with a prediction of 2.2 per cent growth.
The Bank also noted that the amount of slack in the economy had decreased. As such, the Bank now expects the economy will return to full capacity “in the first half of 2013,” which while intentionally vague is still sooner than the previous prediction for a return to full capacity by the third quarter of next year.
The Bank ended the announcement by hinting, for the first time since last September, that it may have to raise rates, stating “In light of the reduced slack in the economy and firmer underlying inflation, some modest withdrawal of the present considerable monetary policy stimulus may become appropriate, consistent with achieving the 2 per cent inflation target over the medium term. The timing and degree of any such withdrawal will be weighed carefully against domestic and global economic developments.”
Further clarification as to when these “modest” rate hikes may be expected will no doubt be the subject of the various speeches and remarks given by the Governor and his deputies between now and the next announcement on June 5th, 2012.
As of April 17th 2012, the advertised five-year lending rate stood at 5.44 per cent. This is up 0.2 percentage points from 5.24 per cent on March 8th, when the Bank made its previous policy interest rate announcement.