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Bank of Canada governor indicates readiness to let economy run hot to include more people in recovery – Financial Post

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‘We can expect a long adjustment process and a protracted recovery’

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Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, the first African-American to earn a PhD in economics, in 1944 observed that Black workers would be the “last to be hired and the first to be fired” unless the economy was at full employment.

The economics profession is finally catching up, as policy-makers such as Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem and U.S. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell are as focused on levelling the playing field for marginalized groups as they are on traditional worries such as inflation.

Systemic racism still blocks ethnic minorities from fully participating in the economy unless white bosses are forced to choose between either confronting their prejudices or missing an order due to a lack of staff. Ancient gender roles force women to choose between careers and children. The long-term unemployed become victims of both atrophy and those managers who are conditioned to prefer poaching active workers to fill open positions, rather than taking a chance on someone who has been on the sidelines for six months.

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History and our own stupid human behaviour mean we continue to leave considerable talent on the bench — or in the stands. As a result, the economy is less productive than it could be, which makes balancing budgets, closing output gaps and hitting inflation targets that much harder.

Macklem, who took over as Bank of Canada governor in June, is making inequality the focus of policy, as Powell in the United States and Christine Lagarde at the European Central Bank have also done. On Feb. 23, Macklem made it clear that he intends to let the economy run hotter for longer than most mainstream economists would have thought safe only a few years ago, reinforcing both the likelihood that interest rates will remain extremely low for at least another couple of years and that more people will potentially get to participate in the recovery.

The reason: to test the bounds of full employment in order to crowd more people into the workforce.

Macklem noted that the unemployment rate had been unusually low for an extended period of time before the pandemic, and yet inflation never took off. It could have been a fluke. But in case it wasn’t, Macklem indicated that he and his deputies on the Governing Council agreed to probe the limits of their previous understanding of the relationship between employment and inflation. The pre-pandemic experience suggests the central bank needn’t fear inflation quite as much as it has in the past, which would allow policy-makers a freer hand to stoke economic growth.

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“Based on past economic cycles, we would have expected inflationary pressure to begin to rise,” the governor said in a virtual speech hosted by the Calgary and Edmonton chambers of commerce. “But inflation wasn’t threatening to take off. As the pandemic recedes and the recovery continues, we will keep that experience in mind.”

The unemployment rate dropped below six per cent at the end of 2017 and averaged 5.8 per cent until the governments shut down most of the economy in March 2020 to fight COVID-19.

That level is essentially full employment, according to the Bank of Canada’s understanding of how the economy works. That is, when the jobless rate drops that low, economists at the central bank have long assumed that everyone who wants a job would have one and, therefore, growth would be such that inflationary pressures start to build.

But inflation never became a major concern during that entire period. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) averaged annual growth rates of about two per cent, which is what the Bank of Canada is obligated to achieve. The relationship between the unemployment rate and prices appears to have changed, so why not try for fuller employment?

“There’s a shared responsibility and monetary policy has a role to play,” Macklem said on a call with reporters after his remarks. “If we can all play that part, we can get Canadians back to work, we can grow the labour force and we can achieve a complete, shared recovery. If we don’t do that, it’s going to be an even more protracted recovery. It won’t be as shared, and there will be less potential to grow going forward.”

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The Bank of Canada is benefiting from a path cleared by the Fed. The American central bank cut interest rates three times in 2019, even as the economy continued to grow. Powell was accused of courting trouble, and he may yet have to contend with a collapse of the stock-market bubble. But the jobless rate had dropped to 3.5 per cent by the eve of the pandemic, the lowest since the late 1960s. Millions of Blacks and other marginalized workers found jobs, and inflation remained dormant.

Inequality isn’t as acute in Canada as it is in the U.S., but it’s still an issue. “Some measures suggest that Canada is among the top jurisdictions for inclusion and equity in the distribution of education and skills attainment,” a new report by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship said, “but troubling inequities persist, and many face barriers to the use of their skills in the labour market, leading to stubbornly high levels of income and wealth inequality.”

Women in Canada are 17.5 percentage points more likely to have a post-secondary credential than men, and yet the gender-pay gap has barely changed in decades, according to Brookfield’s study. Some 71 per cent of non-Indigenous Canadians aged 25 to 34 have earned a certificate or a degree beyond high school, compared with 29 per cent for Blacks and 40 per cent for First Nations.

Macklem’s latest remarks suggest policy-makers are prepared to take these sorts of divisions at least as seriously as inflation. The jobless rate was 9.4 per cent in January, a long way from full employment, no matter how you measure it. “The economy will need support for quite some time, and the bank will continue to do its part,” he said.

• Email: kcarmichael@postmedia.com | Twitter:

In-depth reporting on the innovation economy from The Logic, brought to you in partnership with the Financial Post.

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Economy

CANADA STOCKS – TSX ends flat at 19,228.03

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* The Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX falls 0.00 percent to 19,228.03

* Leading the index were Corus Entertainment Inc <CJRb.TO​>, up 7.0%, Methanex Corp​, up 6.4%, and Canaccord Genuity Group Inc​, higher by 5.5%.

* Lagging shares were Denison Mines Corp​​, down 7.0%, Trillium Therapeutics Inc​, down 7.0%, and Nexgen Energy Ltd​, lower by 5.7%.

* On the TSX 93 issues rose and 128 fell as a 0.7-to-1 ratio favored decliners. There were 26 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 183.7 million shares.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Toronto-dominion Bank, Nutrien Ltd and Organigram Holdings Inc.

* The TSX’s energy group fell 1.61 points, or 1.4%, while the financials sector climbed 0.67 points, or 0.2%.

* West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 0.44%, or $0.26, to $59.34 a barrel. Brent crude  fell 0.24%, or $0.15, to $63.05 [O/R]

* The TSX is up 10.3% for the year.

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Economy

Canadian dollar outshines G10 peers, boosted by jobs surge

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Canadian dollar

By Fergal Smith

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian dollar advanced against its broadly stronger U.S. counterpart on Friday as data showing the economy added far more jobs than expected in March offset lower oil prices, with the loonie also gaining for the week.

Canada added 303,100 jobs in March, triple analyst expectations, driven by the recovery across sectors hit by shutdowns in December and January to curb the new coronavirus.

“The Canadian economy keeps beating expectations,” said Michael Goshko, corporate risk manager at Western Union Business Solutions. “It seems like the economy is adapting to these closures and restrictions.”

Stronger-than-expected economic growth could pull forward the timing of the first interest rate hike by the Bank of Canada, Goshko said.

The central bank has signaled that its benchmark rate will stay at a record low of 0.25% until 2023. It is due to update its economic forecasts on April 21, when some analysts expect it to cut bond purchases.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.3% higher at 1.2530 to the greenback, or 79.81 U.S. cents, the biggest gain among G10 currencies. For the week, it was also up 0.3%.

Still, speculators have cut their bullish bets on the Canadian dollar to the lowest since December, data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed. As of April 6, net long positions had fallen to 2,690 contracts from 6,518 in the prior week.

The price of oil, one of Canada‘s major exports, was pressured by rising supplies from major producers. U.S. crude prices settled 0.5% lower at $59.32 a barrel, while the U.S. dollar gained ground against a basket of major currencies, supported by higher U.S. Treasury yields.

Canadian government bond yields also climbed and the curve steepened, with the 10-year up 4.1 basis points at 1.502%.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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Economy

Canadian dollar rebounds from one-week low ahead of jobs data

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Canadian dollar

By Fergal Smith

TORONTO (Reuters) -The Canadian dollar strengthened against its U.S. counterpart on Thursday, recovering from a one-week low the day before, as the level of oil prices bolstered the medium-term outlook for the currency and ahead of domestic jobs data on Friday.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.4% higher at 1.2560 to the greenback, or 79.62 U.S. cents. On Wednesday, it touched its weakest intraday level since March 31 at 1.2634.

“We have seen partial retracement from the decline over the last couple of days,” said Greg Anderson, global head of foreign exchange strategy at BMO Capital Markets.

“With oil prices where they are – let’s call WCS still at roughly $49 a barrel – I still think CAD has room to strengthen over the medium term and even over a one-week horizon.”

Western Canadian Select (WCS), the heavy blend of oil that Canada produces, trades at a discount to the U.S. benchmark. U.S. crude futures settled 0.3% lower at $59.60 a barrel, but were up nearly 80% since last November.

The S&P 500 closed at a record high as Treasury yields fell following softer-than-anticipated labor market data, while the U.S. dollar fell to a two-week low against a basket of major currencies.

Canada‘s employment report for March, due on Friday, could offer clues on the Bank of Canada‘s policy outlook. The central bank has become more upbeat about prospects for economic growth, while some strategists expect it to cut bond purchases at its next interest rate announcement on April 21.

On a more cautious note for the economy, Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, initiated a four-week stay-at-home order as it battles a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canadian government bond yields were lower across a flatter curve in sympathy with U.S. Treasuries. The 10-year fell 3.3 basis points to 1.469%.

(Reporting by Fergal Smith;Editing by Alison Williams and Jonathan Oatis)

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