Bank of Canada keeps interest rates on hold

The Bank of Canada kept its trend-setting Bank Rate at 1.25 per cent on January 17th, 2012. This marks the 11th consecutive policy meeting in which borrowing costs have been left unchanged.

While recognizing that the outlook for the global economy had deteriorated and that uncertainty had increased since it released its October Monetary Policy Report (MPR), the Bank also made those same observations at its previous meeting on December 6th.

Economic growth in Canada had more momentum in the second half of 2011 than the Bank projected in its October MPR, but it expects the pace going forward to slow by more modest than previously expected, due largely to factors outside Canadian borders. This reiterates statements made in December 2011. On the upside, the Bank said that “very favourable financing conditions are expected to buttress consumer spending and housing activity.”

The Bank releases its updated forecast for Canadian economic growth. It now estimates that the economy grew by 2.4 per cent in 2011 compared to the initial estimate of 2.1 per cent, owing to the better than expected end to the year.

The Bank projects growth of 2.0 per cent in 2012 compared to 1.9 per cent in the October MPR, and 2.8 per cent in 2013, down slightly from the previous 2013 forecast of 2.9 per cent, with the big picture being that past and current growth estimates have been revised upward at the expense of future economic growth.

“The Bank said it expects the pace of growth going forward to moderate by more than initially thought, but the forecast for growth this year has actually been raised slightly,” said CREA Chief Economist Gregory Klump. “That reflects a weaker than previously expected growth profile for the first half of 2012, followed by an acceleration in the second half of the year.”

“The Bank reiterated that its outlook remains subject to downside risks from the sovereign debt issue in Europe. Recent credit-rating downgrades to much of the euro zone point to potential contagion by way of a drop in financial market liquidity,” he added. “The bottom line is that the Bank rate is not going to be going up anytime soon, and we may see rates lowered should downside risks materialize.”

The Bank noted that “while the economy appears to be operating with less slack than previously assumed, it is only anticipated to return to full capacity by the third quarter of 2013, one quarter earlier than was expected in October.” Overall, inflation expectations remain “well-anchored.”

A number of financial institutions have recently dropped their five-year lending rates to a record low of 2.99 per cent. This is down considerably from the advertised five-year rate of 5.29 per cent when the Bank last met on December 6th, 2011.

The Bank will make its next scheduled rate announcement on March 8th, 2012.

(CREA 01/17/2012)

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