2 Apr

CHIP Reverse Mortgage

General

Posted by: Tony Passalacqua

CHIP Reverse Mortgage

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had the money to do more of the things you want to do? A CHIP Reverse Mortgage could be just what you need. It’s the simple and sensible way to unlock the value in your home and turn it into cash to help you enjoy life on your terms.

BENEFITS OF A CHIP REVERSE MORTGAGE

You receive the money tax-free. It is not added to your taxable income so it doesn’t affect Old Age Security (OAS) or Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) government benefits you may receive.

 You can use the money any way you wish. Maybe you want to enjoy your retirement or cover unexpected expenses. Perhaps you want to update your home or help your family without depleting your current savings. The only condition is that any outstanding loans (e.g. existing mortgage or home equity line of credit) secured by your home must be paid out with the proceeds from your CHIP Reverse Mortgage.

No regular mortgage payments are required while you or your spouse live in your home. The full amount only becomes due when you and your spouse no longer live in the home

You maintain ownership and control of your home. You will never be asked to move or sell to repay your CHIP Reverse Mortgage. All that’s required is that you maintain your property and stay up-to-date with property taxes, fire insurance and condominium or maintenance fees while you live there.

You keep all the equity remaining in your home. In many years of experience, 99 out of 100 homeowners have money left over when their CHIP Reverse Mortgage is repaid. And on average, the amount left over is 50% of the value of the home when it is sold.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Got questions? Here are frequently asked questions.

How does a CHIP Reverse Mortgage work?

A CHIP Reverse Mortgage is secured by the equity in your home. Unlike a traditional mortgage in which you make regular payments to someone else, a reverse mortgage pays you.

The big advantage with the CHIP Reverse Mortgage is that you do not have to make any regular mortgage payments for as long as you or your spouse lives in your home. That’s what has made reverse mortgages such a popular solution in Canada, the U.K., the U.S., Australia and other countries.

Who is it for?

The CHIP Reverse Mortgage is designed exclusively for homeowners age 55 and older. This age qualification applies to both you and your spouse.

How much can I get and how is it calculated?

You can receive up to 55% of the value of your home. The specific amount is based on your age and that of your spouse, the location and type of home you have, and your home’s current appraised value. You can contact me and I can quickly give you an estimate of how much you may be approved for.

How do I receive the money?

You can choose how you want to receive the money. The CHIP Reverse Mortgage gives you the option of receiving all the money you’re eligible for in one lump sum advance, or you can take some now and more later, or you can receive planned advances over a set period of time. Planned advances are available on the Income Advantage product.

Will the homeowner owe more than the house is worth?

The homeowner keeps all the equity remaining in the home. In our many years of experience, over 99% of homeowners have money left over when their loan is repaid. The equity remaining depends on the amount borrowed, the value of the home, and the amount of time that’s passed since the reverse mortgage was taken out.

Will the bank own the home?

No. The homeowner retains title and maintains ownership of the home. It’s required for the homeowner to live in the home, pay taxes on time, have property insurance, and maintain the property in good condition.

What if the homeowner has an existing mortgage?

Many of our clients use a reverse mortgage to pay off their existing mortgage and debts.

Should reverse mortgages only be considered as a loan of last resort?

No. Many financial professionals recommend a reverse mortgage to supplement monthly income instead of selling and downsizing, or taking out a conventional mortgage or a line of credit.

What fees are associated with a reverse mortgage?

There are one time fees to arrange a reverse mortgage such as an appraisal fee, fee for independent legal advice as well as our fee for administration, title insurance, and registration. With the exception of the appraisal fee, these fees are paid for with the funding dollars.

What if the homeowner can’t afford payments?

There are no monthly payments required as long as the homeowner is living in the home.

Contact me today if you have any questions or if you’d like to see how much you can get!

30 Mar

Why Are Mortgage Rates Rising?

General

Posted by: Tony Passalacqua

 

Why Are Mortgage Rates Rising?

 

Over the past month, the Bank of Canada has lowered its overnight rate by a whopping 1.5 percentage points to a mere 0.25%. Many people expected mortgage rates to fall equivalently. The banks have reduced prime rates by the full 150 basis points (bps). But, since the second Bank of Canada rate cut on March 13, banks and other lenders have hiked mortgage rates for fixed- and variable-rate loans. That’s not what happens typically when the Bank cuts its overnight rate. But these are extraordinary times.

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted everything, shutting down the entire global economy and damaging business and consumer confidence. No one knows when it will end. This degree of uncertainty and the risk to our health is profoundly unnerving.

Most businesses have ground to a halt, so unemployment has surged. Hourly workers and many of the self-employed have found themselves with no income for an indeterminate period. All but essential workers are staying at home, including vast numbers of students and pre-school children. Nothing like this has happened in the past century. The societal and emotional toll is enormous, and governments at all levels are introducing income support programs for individuals and businesses, but so far, no cheques are in the mail.

In consequence, the economy hasn’t just slowed; it has frozen in place and is rapidly contracting. Travel has stopped. Trade and transport have stopped. Manufacturing and commerce have stopped. And this is happening all over the world.

What’s more, the Saudis and Russians took advantage of the disruption to escalate oil production and drive down prices in a thinly veiled attempt to drive marginal producers in the US and Canada out of business. This has compounded the negative impact on our economy and dramatically intensified the plunge in our stock market.

Many Canadians are now forced to live off their savings or go into debt until employment insurance and other government assistance kicks in, and even when it does, it will not cover 100% of the income loss. The majority of the population has very little savings, so people are resort to drawing on their home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), other credit lines or adding to credit card debt. Businesses are doing the same.

The good news is that people and businesses that already have loans tied to the prime rate are enjoying a significant reduction in their monthly payments. All of the major banks have reduced their prime rates from 3.95% to 2.45%. So people or businesses with floating-rate loans, be they mortgages or HELOCs or commercial lines of credit, have seen their monthly borrowing costs fall by 1.5 percentage points. That helps to reduce the burden of dipping into this source of funds to replace income.

So Why Are Mortgage Rates For New Loans Rising?

These disruptive forces of Covid-19 have markedly reduced the earnings of banks and other lenders and dramatically increased their risk. That is why the stock prices of banks and other publically-traded lenders have fallen very sharply, causing their dividend yields to rise to levels well above government bond yields. As an example, Royal Bank’s stock price has fallen 22% year-to-date (ytd), increasing its annual dividend yield to 5.31%. For CIBC, it has been even worse. Its stock price has fallen 30%, driving its dividend yield to 7.66%. To put this into perspective, the 10-year Government of Canada bond yield is only 0.64%. The gap is a reflection of the investor perception of the risk confronting Canadian banks.

Thus, the cost of funds for banks and other lenders has risen sharply despite the cut in the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate. The cheapest source of funding is short-term deposits–especially savings and chequing accounts. Still, unemployed consumers and shut-down businesses are withdrawing these deposits to pay the rent and put food on the table.

Longer-term deposits called GICs, which stands for Guaranteed Investment Certificates, are a more expensive source of funds. Still, owing to their hefty penalties for early withdrawal, they become a more reliable funding source at a time like this. As noted by Rob Carrick, consumer finance reporter for the Globe and Mail, “GIC rates should be in the toilet right now because that’s what rates broadly do in times of economic stress. But GIC rates follow a similar path to mortgage rates, which have risen lately as lenders price rising default risk into borrowing costs.”

To attract funds, some of the smaller banks have increased their savings and GIC rates. For example, EQ Bank is paying 2.45% on its High-Interest Savings Account and 2.55% on its 5-year GIC. Other small banks are also hiking GIC rates, raising their cost of funds. Rob McLister noted that “The likes of Home Capital, Equitable Bank and Canadian Western Bank have lifted their 1-year GIC rates over 65 bps in the last few weeks, according to data from noted housing analyst Ben Rabidoux.”

The banks are having to set aside funds to cover rising loan loss reserves, which exacerbates their earnings decline. An unusually large component of Canadian bank loan losses is coming from the oil sector. Still, default risk is rising sharply for almost every business, small and large–think airlines, shipping companies, manufacturers, auto dealers, department stores, etc.

Lenders have also been swamped by thousands of applications to defer mortgage payments.

Hence, confronted with rising costs and falling revenues, the banks are tightening their belts. They slashed their prime rates but eliminated the discounts to prime for new variable-rate mortgage loans. Some lenders will no doubt start charging prime plus a premium for such mortgage loans. Banks have also raised fixed-rate mortgage rates as these myriad pressures reducing bank earnings are causing investors to insist banks pay more for the funds they need to remain liquid.

An additional concern is that financial markets have become less and less liquid–sellers cannot find buyers at reasonable prices. The ‘bid-ask’ spreads are widening. That’s why the central bank and CMHC are buying mortgage-backed securities in enormous volumes. That is also why the Bank of Canada has started large-scale weekly buying of government securities and commercial paper. These government entities have become the buyer of last resort, providing liquidity to the mortgage and bond markets.

These markets are crucial to the financial stability of Canada. Large-scale purchases of securities are called “quantitative easing” and have never been used before by the Bank of Canada. It was used extensively by the Fed and other central banks during the 2008-10 financial crisis. When business and consumer confidence is so low that nothing the central bank can do will spur investment and spending, they resort to quantitative easing to keep financial markets functioning. In today’s world, businesses and consumers are locked down, and no one knows when it will end. With so much uncertainty, confidence about the future diminishes. The natural tendency is for people to cancel major expenditures and hunker down.

We are living through an unprecedented period. When the health emergency has passed, we will celebrate a return to a new normal. In the meantime, seemingly odd things will continue to happen in financial markets.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
drcooper@dominionlending.ca

27 Mar

Bank of Canada Cuts Rates 50 bps to 0.25%

General

Posted by: Tony Passalacqua

 

Bank of Canada Moves to Restore “Financial Market Functionality”

 

The Bank of Canada today lowered its target for the overnight rate by 50 basis points to ¼ percent. This unscheduled rate decision brings the policy rate to its effective lower bound and is intended to provide support to the Canadian financial system and the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic (see chart below).

Strains in the commercial paper and government securities markets triggered today’s action to engage in quantitative easing. The Governing Council has been meeting every day during the pandemic crisis. Market illiquidity is a significant problem and one the Bank considers foundational. These large-scale purchases of financial assets are intended to improve the functioning of financial markets.

Credit risk spreads have widened sharply in recent days. People are moving to cash. Liquidity has dried up in all financial markets, even government-guaranteed markets such as Canadian Mortgage-Backed securities (CMBs) and GoC bills and bonds. The commercial paper market–used by businesses for short-term financing–has become nonfunctional. The Bank is making large-scale purchases of financial assets in illiquid markets to improve market functioning across the yield curve. They are not attempting to change the shape of the curve for now but might do so in the future.

These large-scale purchases will create the liquidity that the financial system is demanding so that financial intermediation can function. Risk has risen, which creates the need for more significant cash injections.

At the press conference today, Senior Deputy Governor Wilkins refrained from speculating what other measures the Bank might take in the future. When asked, “Where is the bottom?” She responded, “That depends on the resolution of the Covid-19 health issues.”

The Bank will discuss the economic outlook in its Monetary Policy Report at their regularly scheduled meeting on April 15. In response to questions, Governor Poloz said it is challenging to assess what the impact of the shutdown of the economy will be. A negative cycle of pessimism is clearly in place. The Bank’s rate cuts help to reduce monthly payments on floating rate debt. He is hoping to maintain consumer confidence and expectations of a return to normalcy.

The oil price cut alone would have been sufficient reason for the Bank of Canada to lower interest rates. The Covid-19 medical emergency and the shutdown dramatically exacerbates the situation. All that monetary policy can do is to cushion the blow and avoid structural problems to the economy. The overnight rate of 0.25% is consistent with market rates along the yield curve.

High household debt levels have historically been a concern. Monetary policy easing helps to bridge the gap until the health concerns are resolved. The housing market, according to Wilkins, is no longer a concern for excessive borrowing by cash-strapped households.

At this point, the Bank is not contemplating negative interest rates. Monetary policy has little further room to maneuver, given interest rates are already very low. With businesses closed, lower interest rates do not encourage consumers to go out and spend money.

Large-scale debt purchases by the Bank will continue for an extended period to provide liquidity. The Bank can do this in virtually unlimited quantities as needed. The policymakers are also focussing on the period after the crisis. They want the economy to have an excellent foundation for growth when the economy resumes its normal functioning.

Fiscal stimulus is crucial at this time. The newly introduced income support for people who are not covered by the Employment Insurance system is a particularly important safety net for the economy. There are many other elements of the fiscal stimulus, and the government stands ready to do more as needed.

The Canadian dollar has moved down on the Bank’s latest emergency action. The loonie has also been battered by the dramatic decline in oil prices. Canada is getting a double whammy from the pandemic and the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. The loonie’s decline feeds through to rising prices of imports. However, the pandemic has disrupted trade and imports have fallen.

The Bank of Canada suggested as well that they are meeting twice a week with the leadership of the Big-Six Banks. The cost of funds for the banks has risen sharply. CMHC is buying large volumes of mortgages from the banks, which, along with CMB purchases by the central bank, will shore up liquidity. The banks are well-capitalized and robust. The level of collaboration between the Bank of Canada and the Big Six is very high.

 

 

The Stock Market Has Had Three Good Days

As the chart below shows, the Toronto Stock Exchange has retraced some of its losses in the past three days as the US and Canada have announced very aggressive fiscal stimulus. As well, the Bank of Canada has now lowered interest rates three times this month, with a cumulative easing of 1.5 percentage points. The Federal Reserve has also cut by 150 basis points over the same period. In addition to lowering borrowing costs, the central bank has also announced in recent days a slew of new liquidity measures to inject cash into the banking system and money markets and to ensure it can handle any market-wide stresses in the financial system.

The economic pain is just getting started in Canada with the spike in joblessness and the shutdown of all but essential services. Similarly, the US posted its highest level of initial unemployment insurance claims in history–3.83 million, which compares to a previous high of 685,000 during the financial crisis just over a decade ago. These are the earliest indicator of a virus-slammed economy, with much more to come. All of this is without precedent, but rest assured that policy leaders will continue to do whatever it takes to cushion the blow of the pandemic on consumers and businesses and to bridge a return to normalcy.

 

 Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
drcooper@dominionlending.ca

 

16 Mar

Bank of Canada cuts overnight rate again

General

Posted by: Tony Passalacqua

Bank of Canada cuts overnight rate againBeginning today, the Bank of Canada is lowering its target for the overnight rate by 50 basis points to 0.75%. The Bank Rate is correspondingly 1 percent and the deposit rate is 0.50 percent.

The unscheduled rate decision is the second in as many weeks. In a statement, the central bank stated this was “a proactive measure taken in light of the negative shocks to Canada’s economy arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent sharp drop in oil prices.”

Last night, the US Federal Reserve made a surprise announcement in cutting its federal funds rate to a range of 0% to 0.25%. The US central bank also cited the negative economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic for its decision.

Separately, the Bank of Canada has teamed with five central banks to lower the pricing on the standing US dollar liquidity swap arrangements by 25 basis points.

Canada’s central bank announced on Sunday evening that it is working with the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank to ensure the new rate will be the U.S. dollar overnight index swap (OIS) rate plus 25 basis points. The central banks aim to increase the swap lines’ effectiveness in providing term liquidity by offering U.S. dollars weekly in each jurisdiction with an 84-day maturity, in addition to the one-week maturity operations currently offered.

These changes will take effect with the next scheduled operations during this week. The new pricing and maturity offerings will remain in place as long as appropriate to support the smooth functioning of U.S. dollar funding markets.

“The swap lines are available standing facilities and serve as an important liquidity backstop to ease strains in global funding markets, thereby helping to mitigate the effects of such strains on the supply of credit to households and businesses, both domestically and abroad,” said the Bank of Canada in a statement.

16 Mar

Mortgage stress test changes are on hold until further notice

General

Posted by: Tony Passalacqua

 

Mortgage stress test changes are on hold until further noticeThe planned change and review of the mortgage stress test has slipped down the priority list for the Canadian government due to the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Until the outbreak, it was expected that Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) would consider changes after a consultation with stakeholders. It was hoped this would make the rate used to determine affordability for uninsured mortgages more dynamic instead of its current rigidity.

But OSFI said late Friday that, in unison with other government agencies, it was focusing on ensuring the resilience of Canadian financial institutions and the financial system.

“As a result, the benchmark rate as currently published by the Bank of Canada will remain in force until further notice,” OSFI said in a statement.

But it’s not just the review for uninsured mortgages that are affected.

“The Minister of Finance has also announced the suspension of the April 6, 2020 coming into force of the new benchmark rate used to determine the minimum qualifying rate for insured mortgages,” the statement clarified.

Maintaining credit supply

To ensure that Canadian financial institutions have enough liquidity to continue lending, OSFI has also cut its buffer requirements.

The Domestic Stability Buffer, which large financial institutions are required to maintain in case of financial crisis, was due to be 2.25% as of the end of April 2020 but this has been cut to 1% immediately and remain in place for at least 18 months.

The regulator says the release of banks’ funds from the buffer should be used for lending to businesses and households and not for shareholder distributions.

OSFI says that financial institutions’ dividend increases and shareholder buybacks should be halted.

4 Mar

Interest Rates Nosedive as Bank of Canada Cuts Rates 50 bps

General

Posted by: Tony Passalacqua

 The Bank of Canada Brings Out The Big Guns

Following yesterday’s surprise emergency 50 basis point (bp) rate cut by the Fed, the Bank of Canada followed suit today and signalled it is poised to do more if necessary. The BoC lowered its target for the overnight rate by 50 bps to 1.25%, suggesting that “the COVID-19 virus is a material negative shock to the Canadian and global outlooks.” This is the first time the Bank has eased monetary policy in four years.

According to the BoC’s press release, “COVID-19 represents a significant health threat to people in a growing number of countries. In consequence, business activity in some regions has fallen sharply, and supply chains have been disrupted. This has pulled down commodity prices, and the Canadian dollar has depreciated. Global markets are reacting to the spread of the virus by repricing risk across a broad set of assets, making financial conditions less accommodative. It is likely that as the virus spreads, business and consumer confidence will deteriorate, further depressing activity.” The press release went on to promise that “as the situation evolves, the Governing Council stands ready to adjust monetary policy further if required to support economic growth and keep inflation on target.”

Moving the full 50 basis points is a powerful message from the Bank of Canada. Particularly given that Governor Poloz has long been bucking the tide of monetary easing by more than 30 central banks around the world, concerned about adding fuel to a red hot housing market, especially in Toronto. Other central banks will no doubt follow, although already-negative interest rates hamper the euro-area and Japan.

Canadian interest rates, which have been falling rapidly since mid-February, nosedived in response to the Bank’s announcement. The 5-yield Government of Canada bond yield plunged to a mere 0.82% (see chart below), about half its level at the start of the year.

Fixed-rate mortgage rates have fallen as well, although not as much as government bond yields. The prime rate, which has been stuck at 3.95% since October 2018 when the Bank of Canada last changed (hiked) its overnight rate, is going to fall, but not by the full 50 bps as the cost of funds for banks has risen with the surge in credit spreads. A cut in the prime rate will lower variable-rate mortgage rates.

Many expect the Fed to cut rates again when it meets later this month at its regularly scheduled policy meeting, and the Canadian central bank is now expected to cut interest rates again in April. Of course, monetary easing does not address supply-chain disruptions or travel cancellations. Easing is meant to flood the system with liquidity and improve consumer and business confidence–just as happened in response to the financial crisis. Expect fiscal stimulus as well in the upcoming federal budget.

All of this will boost housing demand even though reduced travel from China might crimp sales in Vancouver. A potential recession is not good for housing, but lower interest rates certainly fuel what was already a hot spring sales market. Data released today by the Toronto Real Estate Board show that Toronto home prices soared in February, and sales jumped despite low inventories. The number of transactions jumped 46% from February 2019, which was a 10-year sales low as the market struggled with tougher mortgage rules and higher interest rates. February sales were up by about 15% compared to January.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
drcooper@dominionlending.ca

28 Feb

Virus Anxiety and The Canadian Housing Market

General

Posted by: Tony Passalacqua

 Virus Anxiety Hits Canada

As though things weren’t volatile enough, a new wave of virus terror is wreaking havoc on global financial markets. The novel conronavirus, COVID-19, continues to spread causing panic in worldwide stock and bond markets for the seventh day. Share prices have plummetted in Asia, Europe, the U.S. and Canada. The sell-off is fueled mostly by concern that measures to contain the virus will hamper corporate profits and economic growth, and fears that the outbreak could get worse.

Interest rates are falling sharply, hitting record lows reflecting a movement of cash out of stocks and commodities like oil, into the safer havens of government bonds and gold. In Canada, the 5-year bond yield has fallen to 1.16% this morning, down more than 50 basis points (bps) year-to-date and down 65 bps year-over-year (see chart below). Mortgage rates are closely linked to the 5-year government bond yield, so further downward pressure on mortgage rates is likely. Oil prices have fallen sharply, hitting the Prairie provinces hard. Crude oil WTI prices have fallen to just over US$45.00 a barrel compared to $62.50 earlier this year.

The Canadian dollar has also taken a beating, down to 0.7468 cents US, compared to a high of 0.7712 early this year.

The Canadian economy was already battered as today’s release of fourth-quarter GDP data shows. Statistics Canada reported that the economy came to a near halt in Q4 as exports dropped by the most since 2017 and business investment declined. Household spending was a bright spot–a reflection of a strong labour market and rising wages.

Monthly data for December, also released this morning, came in stronger than expected, showing the economy had some momentum going into 2020 before the coronavirus reared its ugly head.

The weak 0.3% growth in Q4 was expected as a series of temporary factors including a week-long rail strike, manufacturing plant disruptions and pipeline shutdowns slowed growth. Even though December posted an uptick, the first quarter will no doubt be hampered by the rail blockade and now virus-related supply and travel disruptions as well as reduced tourism.

Bottom Line: Panic selling in the stock market is never a good idea. The TSX opened down more 550 points this morning following yesterday’s outage. Trading on Thursday was suspended around 2 PM for technical reasons.

None of this is good for psychology or the economy.

The Bank of Canada meets next Wednesday, and clearly, their press release will address these issues. It’s unlikely the Bank will cut rates in response on March 4, but if the economic disruption continues, rate cuts could be coming by mid-year.

The new stress test will be in place on April 6. If rates were at today’s level, the qualifying rate for mortgage borrowers would be more than 40-to-50 basis points lower than today’s level of 5.19%. This will add fuel to an already hot housing market.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
drcooper@dominionlending.ca

18 Feb

Minister Morneau Announces New Benchmark Rate for Qualifying For Insured Mortgages

General

Posted by: Tony Passalacqua

Minister Morneau Announces New Benchmark Rate for Qualifying For Insured Mortgages
The new qualifying rate will be the mortgage contract rate or a newly created benchmark very close to it plus 200 basis points, in either case. The News Release from the Department of Finance Canada states, “the Government of Canada has introduced measures to help more Canadians achieve their housing needs while also taking measured actions to contain risks in the housing market. A stable and healthy housing market is part of a strong economy, which is vital to building and supporting a strong middle class.”

These changes will come into effect on April 6, 2020. The new benchmark rate will be the weekly median 5-year fixed insured mortgage rate from mortgage insurance applications, plus 2%.

This follows a recent review by federal financial agencies, which concluded that the minimum qualifying rate should be more dynamic to reflect the evolution of market conditions better. Overall, the review concluded that the mortgage stress test is working to ensure that home buyers are able to afford their homes even if interest rates rise, incomes change, or families are faced with unforeseen expenses.

This adjustment to the stress test will allow it to be more representative of the mortgage rates offered by lenders and more responsive to market conditions.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) also announced today that it is considering the same new benchmark rate to determine the minimum qualifying rate for uninsured mortgages.

The existing qualification rule, which was introduced in 2016 for insured mortgages and in 2018 for uninsured mortgages, wasn’t responsive enough to the recent drop in lending interest rates — effectively making the stress test too tight. The earlier rule established the big-six bank posted rate plus 2 percentage points as the qualifying rate. Banks have increasingly held back from adjusting their posted rates when 5-year market yields moved downward. With rates falling sharply in recent weeks, especially since the coronavirus scare, the gap between posted and contract mortgage rates has widened even more than what was already evident in the past two years.

This move, effective April 6, should reduce the qualifying rate by about 30 basis points if contract rates remain at roughly today’s levels. According to a Department of Finance official, “As of February 18, 2020, based on the weekly median 5-year fixed insured mortgage rate from insured mortgage applications received by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the new benchmark rate would be roughly 4.89%.”  That’s 30 basis points less than today’s benchmark rate of 5.19%.

The Bank of Canada will calculate this new benchmark weekly, based on actual rates from mortgage insurance applications, as underwritten by Canada’s three default insurers.

OSFI confirmed today that it, too, is considering the new benchmark rate for its minimum stress test rate on uninsured mortgages (mortgages with at least 20% equity).

“The proposed new benchmark for uninsured mortgages is based on rates from mortgage applications submitted by a wide variety of lenders, which makes it more representative of both the broader market and fluctuations in actual contract rates,” OSFI said in its release.

“In addition to introducing a more accurate floor, OSFI’s proposal maintains cohesion between the benchmarks used to qualify both uninsured and insured mortgages.” (Thank goodness, as the last thing the mortgage market needs is more complexity.)

The new rules will certainly add to what was already likely to be a buoyant spring housing market. While it might boost buying power by just 3% (depending on what the new benchmark turns out to be on April 6), the psychological boost will be positive. Homebuyers—particularly first-time buyers—are already worried about affordability, given the double-digit gains of the last 12 months.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
drcooper@dominionlending.ca

7 Feb

Another Strong Canadian Employment Report In January

General

Posted by: Tony Passalacqua

 

January follows December in erasing the weak November job numbers providing good news for the Canadian economy. Manufacturing led the way as the jobless rate fell, and wage growth accelerated meaningfully. The robust labour market, coupled with consumer confidence holding firm in January at about historical averages, is a reassuring sign for the resilience of the economy.

Canada’s economy created 34,500 net new jobs in January, all in full-time positions, beating economists’ expectations. The unemployment rate fell slightly to 5.5%, wage growth accelerated to 4.4%, and hours worked rose by 0.5%. This second strong reading of Canada’s job market will reinforce the Bank of Canada’s assessment of the underlying health of the Canadian economy.

Slowing activity in the second half of last year was more a function of temporary disruptions and geopolitical tensions. Some of these factors remain, augmented by the coronavirus, which has disrupted travel and trade and dramatically reduced energy and other commodity prices.

Manufacturing and construction led the job gains, and agriculture picked up as well. Quebec, Manitoba and New Brunswick posted employment gains. Fewer people were employed in Alberta, and the jobless rate spiked in Saskatchewan. The resumed decline in oil and other commodity prices has hit both prairie provinces hard.

British Columbia continued to boast the lowest unemployment rate by province, followed by Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario (See table below).

Bottom Line: Canada’s economy has been boosted by the fastest pace of immigration in the Group of Seven countries, spurring a housing boom that is pushing up demand for everything from plumbers to electricians. Indeed, Bloomberg News recently highlighted the more substantial surge in male employment in Canada relative to the US, where women have eclipsed men as the majority of jobholders.

Female job growth in Canada is also strong, and labour force participation rates are higher in Canada than in the US. The jobless rate for women age 25 and older is only 4.6% in Canada, compared to 4.9% for men.

According to Bloomberg News:

  • Jared Menkes, executive vice president at Toronto-based Menkes Developments Ltd., said finding enough labour is a constant source of angst. Central Toronto posted the fastest-growing population in North America last year with a dozen office buildings and countless condos under construction, along with 25 light rail stations, hospitals and all sorts of infrastructure work (see chart below). “We are short actual labour, whether it’s a crane operator, whether it’s drywallers, electricians, plumbers, drivers,” Menkes said. “We’re short truck drivers, architects, consultants.”

Roughly half of all immigrants to Canada located in Ontario, but as the second chart below shows, Quebec and British Columbia garnered their fair share of new residents as well. The Bank of Canada highlights this factor in suggesting that the economy will continue to grow in 2020 and 1. Certainly, it is a strong positive for the housing markets in these provinces. 

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
drcooper@dominionlending.ca

 

27 Jan

Bank of Canada Holds Steady Despite Economic Slowdown, but appears to be less confident in the strength of the economic outlook.

General

Posted by: Tony Passalacqua

Bank of Canada Holds Steady Despite Economic Slowdown

In a more dovish statement, the Bank of Canada maintained its target for the overnight rate at 1.75% for the tenth consecutive time. Today’s decision was widely expected as members of the Governing Council have signalled that the Bank still believes that the Canadian economy is resilient, despite the marked slowdown in growth in the fourth quarter of last year that has spilled into the early part of this year. The economy has underperformed the forecast in the October Monetary Policy Report (MPR).

In today’s MPR, the Bank estimates growth of only 0.3% in Q4 of 2019 and 1.3%in the first quarter of 2020. Exports fell late last year, and business investment appears to have weakened after a strong Q3, reflecting a decline in business confidence. Job creation has slowed, and indicators of consumer confidence and spending have been much softer than expected. The one bright light has been residential investment, which was robust through most of 2019, moderating to a still-solid pace in the fourth quarter only because of a dearth of newly listed properties for sale. 

The central bank’s press release stated that “Some of the slowdown in growth in late 2019 was related to temporary factors that include strikes, poor weather, and inventory adjustments. The weaker data could also signal that global economic conditions have been affecting Canada’s economy to a greater extent than was predicted. Moreover, during the past year, Canadians have been saving a larger share of their incomes, which could signal increased consumer caution which could dampen consumer spending but help to alleviate financial vulnerabilities at the same time.”

The January MPR states that over the projection horizon (2020 and 2021), “business investment and exports are anticipated to improve as oil transportation capacity expands, and the impact of trade policy headwinds on global growth diminishes. Household spending is projected to strengthen, driven by solid growth of both the population and household disposable income.” Growth is expected to be 1.6% in 2019 and 2020 and is anticipated to strengthen to 2.0% in 2021.

Inflation has remained at roughly the Bank’s target of 2%, and is expected to continue at that pace.

Also from the MPR: “The level of housing activity remains solid across most of Canada, although recent indicators suggest that residential investment growth has slowed from its previously strong pace. Demand remains robust in Quebec, where the labour market has been strong. In Ontario and British Columbia, population growth is boosting housing demand. In contrast, Alberta’s housing market continues to adjust to challenges in the oil and gas sector. Nationally, house prices have continued to increase and should strengthen slightly in the near term, consistent with the responses to the Bank’s recent Canadian Survey of Consumer Expectations.”

Bottom Line: The Canadian dollar sold off on the release of this statement and I believe there is a downside risk to the Bank of Canada forecast. Today’s release is a more dovish statement than last month, showing less confidence in the outlook. The Governing Council did express concern that the recent weakness in growth could be more persistent than their current forecast, saying that “the Bank will be paying particular attention to developments in consumer spending, the housing market, and business investment.” They also raised estimates of slack in the economy and dropped language about the current rate being appropriate.

According to Bloomberg News, today’s Governing Council comments “are a departure from recent communications in which officials sought to accentuate the positives of an economy that had been running near capacity and was deemed resilient in the face of global uncertainty. While Wednesday’s decision still leaves the Bank of Canada with the highest policy rate among major advanced economies, markets may interpret the statement as an attempt to, at the very least, open the door for a future move.”

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
drcooper@dominionlending.ca