Bank of Canada expected to part ways with central bankers around the world today


OTTAWA/TORONTO — The Bank of Canada on Wednesday looks set to raise its second-quarter economic growth forecast and stand pat on interest rates, taking a different tack from some major peers, which are signalling plans for additional stimulus.

The central bank will release its quarterly Monetary Policy Report at 10 a.m. ET, in which it is widely expected to hold interest rates steady at 1.75 per cent. But analysts expect the central bank to raise its projection for second-quarter annualized growth to between 2.25 per cent and 3 per cent, from 1.3 per cent forecast in April.

The expected boost to the growth projection comes after a sharp drop in global bond yields helped reduce borrowing costs for Canada’s heavily indebted household sector.

“The Bank of Canada set a pretty low bar in terms of its second-quarter growth numbers,” said Royce Mendes, a senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets.

The central bank has long forecast that the economy would recover from a recent slowdown triggered by low oil prices and the dampening effect of interest rate rises. What remains unclear is how sustainable the expected second-quarter gains are.

By comparison, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Reserve Bank of Australia and the European Central Bank have taken a more dovish approach to monetary policy.

Today, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell bolstered expectations of a cut later this month when he testified that concerns about trade policy and a weak global economy “continue to weigh on the U.S. economic outlook”. U.S. stock futures rose after he said the Fed stands ready to “act as appropriate” to sustain a decade-long expansion.

The Canadian dollar has been the top-performing G10 currency this year as traders bet that Canada’s central bank would diverge from expected easing by the Federal Reserve.

“The Bank of Canada will have to decide whether it believes that there’s further for this momentum to go,” said Mendes, noting that the oil-producing province of Alberta has partially lifted production cutbacks.

The bank has held its overnight rate at 1.75 per cent since last October.

“It’s not just growth divergence, it’s an inflation divergence,” said Greg Anderson, of BMO Capital Markets. “Canada is at target and nobody else is.”

While Canadian inflation has reached the Bank of Canada’s 2 per cent target, the economy has seen other gains, too.

First-quarter consumption levels were higher than expected, RBC Capital Markets strategist Mark Chandler said, adding that business hiring and capital-spending intentions had “held up pretty well.”

But global trade tensions could prompt the bank to cut its forecast for the world economy, Mendes said, noting the United States had slapped more tariffs on Chinese goods since the bank’s April forecasts.

Other potentially negative factors weighing on the bank’s projections include the stronger Canadian dollar’s undercutting competitiveness.

“The appreciating Canadian dollar means that Canada’s level of competitiveness on the global stage is even more deteriorated than it was before,” said Mendes.

© Thomson Reuters 2019

Source: Financial Post

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