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Bank of Canada raises key interest rate to 5%, highest since 2001 – The Globe and Mail

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A $50 bill is pictured in Ottawa in this file photo. The Bank of Canada raised its key benchmark rate on Wednesday by a quarter percentage point to 5 per cent.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Bank of Canada has increased its benchmark interest rate to 5 per cent and pushed out the timeline for getting consumer prices under control, warning that the downward momentum of inflation could stall over the next year as the economy proves surprisingly resilient to higher borrowing costs.

The quarter-point increase, which was widely expected by analysts, brings the policy rate to a level last seen in April, 2001. This will further squeeze Canadians’ finances and push up costs for mortgage holders.

In an updated forecast, the central bank said it expects the annual rate of inflation to remain around 3 per cent for the next year, declining to the bank’s 2-per-cent target by the middle of 2025.

“This is a slower return to target than was forecast in the January and April projections,” the bank said in its rate announcement. “Governing council remains concerned that progress towards the 2-per-cent target could stall, jeopardizing the return to price stability.”

The bank gave no hints about future rate decisions but left the door open to further hikes.

“We are trying to balance the risks of over- and under-tightening,” Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem said in a news conference after the decision. “If new information suggests we need to do more, we are prepared to increase our policy rate further. But we don’t want to do more than we have to.”

Canadian bond yields fell after the announcement, suggesting that markets were expecting a more explicit signal about further rate hikes.

Mr. Macklem and his team are grappling with the surprising strength of the Canadian economy. Many analysts expected the economy to be in a recession by now, squeezed by the most aggressive interest rate increases in a generation. However, consumer spending, job creation and the housing market have turned out to be less responsive to rate hikes than anticipated.

Mortgage calculator: Here’s how rising interest rates affect the cost of your mortgage

The bank raised its economic growth forecast for 2023 to 1.8 per cent from a previous forecast of 1.4 per cent. It expects GDP growth to slow to around 1 per cent in the second half of this year and first half of next year, but predicts the economy will avoid an outright contraction or recession.

The resilience of the economy has been good for many workers and businesses. But it’s become a headache for central bankers, who are intentionally trying to slow spending and investment to reduce upward pressure on prices and stabilize the purchasing power of the Canadian dollar.

“Today’s move can be characterized as a moderately hawkish hike, in that the BoC is certainly not closing the door on the possibility of further moves,” Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter wrote in a note to clients.

“While we are not looking for further hikes this year, we are tweaking our rate call in light of the Bank’s view on growth and inflation – we now see rate cuts beginning only in the second quarter of 2024, one quarter later than our prior view,” he wrote.

The bank paused its monetary policy tightening campaign in January, betting that it had raised interest rates enough to bring inflation down over time. Interest rate increases work with a lag, and Canada’s highly indebted economy was thought to be more sensitive to rising debt-servicing costs than many other economies.

By June, this “conditional pause” seemed untenable. Consumer spending grew a massive 5.8 per cent in the first quarter and house prices began to rebound through the spring. Meanwhile, Canadian employers added almost 300,000 jobs through the first half of the year, keeping the unemployment rate near a record low.

“We have been surprised by the persistence of excess demand and underlying inflation in Canada and globally. We know that higher rates are having an impact, but how big their impact will be is uncertain,” Mr. Macklem told reporters.

Explainer: How does the Bank of Canada work?

Consumer price index inflation has come down significantly, reaching 3.4 per cent in May from a four-decade high of 8.1 per cent last summer. But most of this decline has come from year-over-year comparisons in the price of oil, which spiked after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year and has moderated since then.

Core measures of inflation, which strip out more volatile energy and food prices, have been stickier, with three-month rates averaging around 3.5 to 4 per cent. That suggests the next leg down in inflation could take longer than previously expected.

“With the downward momentum in inflation waning and our forecast suggesting inflation will be around 3 per cent for the next year, we are concerned that the progress to price stability could stall, and inflation could even rise again if there are upside surprises,” Mr. Macklem said.

The bank pointed to several factors behind the surprisingly strong demand in the economy, including high population growth, a tight labour market, accumulated savings and spending by federal and provincial governments.

The Bank of Canada raised interest rates to five per cent, hitting the economy with higher borrowing costs as new projections suggest it will take longer for inflation to fall back to two per cent. Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem said the bank’s assessment was that the cost of delaying action was larger than the benefit of waiting. (July 12, 2023)

The Canadian Press

Another rate increase means more financial pain for Canadian households, who face higher costs to service their debt.

So far, signs of acute financial strain remain relatively limited, the bank said in a special section of its quarterly Monetary Policy Report, published Wednesday. Delinquency rates are rising but remain below pre-pandemic levels, even for variable-rate mortgage holders who have been squeezed the most by rising interest rates.

But there are some pockets of concern, the bank said.

“Credit card data show that borrowers are using their credit cards more extensively than they have in the past,” it said.

“In addition, although overall delinquency rates on loans remain relatively low, the share of borrowers moving from 60 to 90+ days late on any credit product has risen and is now close to a historical high.”

Opinion: Bank of Canada should pause interest rate hikes, leave borrowing costs unchanged

Many homeowners have been cushioned against rising rates because their lenders have let them extend the amortization periods of their mortgages rather increasing their monthly payments. The bank noted that only one-third of mortgage holders have been affected by higher rates so far.

“As this share increases over the coming quarters, more households will face higher debt-service costs. Mortgage holders with variable-rate fixed payments could be particularly exposed,” the bank said.

The bank’s next interest rate decision is scheduled for Sept. 6.

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Before age concerns forced exit, Biden was weakened by angst over economy – Al Jazeera English

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Before age concerns forced exit, Biden was weakened by angst over economy  Al Jazeera English

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Economy

Here is Trump economy: Slower growth, higher prices and a bigger national debt

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If Donald Trump is re-elected president of the United States in November, Americans can expect higher inflation, slower economic growth and a larger national debt, according to economists.

Trump’s economic agenda for a second term in office includes raising tariffs on imports, cutting taxes and deporting millions of undocumented migrants.

“Inflation will be the main impact” of a second Trump presidency, Bernard Yaros, lead US economist at Oxford Economics, told Al Jazeera.

“That’s ultimately the biggest risk. If Trump is president, tariffs are going up for sure. The question is how high do they go and how widespread are they,” Yaros said.

Trump has proposed imposing a 10 percent across-the-board tariff on all imported goods and levies of 60 percent or higher on Chinese imports.

During Trump’s first term in office from 2017 to 2021, his administration introduced tariff increases that at their peak affected about 10 percent of imports, mostly goods from China, Moody’s Analytics said in a report released in June.

Those levies nonetheless inflicted “measurable economic damage”, particularly to the agriculture, manufacturing and transportation sectors, according to the report.

“A tariff increase covering nearly all goods imports, as Trump recently proposed, goes far beyond any previous action,” Moody’s Analytics said in its report.

Businesses typically pass higher tariffs on to their customers, raising prices for consumers. They could also affect businesses’ decisions about how and where to invest.

“There are three main tenets of Trump’s campaign, and they all point in the same inflationary direction,” Matt Colyar, assistant director at Moody’s Analytics, told Al Jazeera.

“We didn’t even think of including retaliatory tariffs in our modelling because who knows how widespread and what form the tit-for-tat model could involve,” Colyar added.

‘Recession becomes a serious threat’

When the US opened its borders after the COVID-19 pandemic, the inflow of immigrants helped to ease labour shortages in a range of industries such as construction, manufacturing, leisure and hospitality.

The recovery of the labour market in turn helped to bring down inflation from its mid-2022 peak of 9.1 percent.

Trump has not only proposed the mass deportation of 15 million to 20 million undocumented migrants but also restricting the inflow of visa-holding migrant workers too.

That, along with a wave of retiring Baby Boomers – an estimated 10,000 of whom are exiting the workforce every day – would put pressure on wages as it did during the pandemic, a trend that only recently started to ease.

“We can assume he will throw enough sand into the gears of the immigration process so you have meaningfully less immigration, which is inflationary,” Yaros said.

Since labour costs and inflation are two important measures that the US Federal Reserve weighs when setting its benchmark interest rate, the central bank could announce further rate hikes, or at least wait longer to cut rates.

That would make recession a “serious threat once again”, according to Moody’s.

Adding to those inflationary concerns are Trump’s proposals to extend his 2017 tax cuts and further lower the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 20 percent.

While Trump’s proposed tariff hikes would offset some lost revenue, they would not make up the shortfall entirely.

According to Moody’s, the US government would generate $1.7 trillion in revenue from Trump’s tariffs while his tax cuts would cost $3.4 trillion.

Yaros said government spending is also likely to rise as Republicans seek bigger defence budgets and Democrats push for greater social expenditures, further stoking inflation.

If President Joe Biden is re-elected, economists expect no philosophical change in his approach to import taxes. They think he will continue to use targeted tariff increases, much like the recently announced 100 percent tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles and solar panels, to help US companies compete with government-supported Chinese firms.

With Trump’s tax cuts set to expire in 2025, a second Biden term would see some of those cuts extended, but not all, Colyar said. Primarily, the tax cuts to higher earners like those making more than $400,000 a year would expire.

Although Biden has said he would hike corporate taxes from 21 percent to 28 percent, given the divided Congress, it is unlikely he would be able to push that through.

The contrasting economic visions of the two presidential candidates have created unwelcome uncertainty for businesses, Colyar said.

“Firms and investors are having a hard time staying on top of [their plans] given the two different ways the US elections could go,” Colyar said.

“In my entire tenure, geopolitical risk has never been such an important consideration as it is today,” he added.

 

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Economy

China Stainless Steel Mogul Fights to Avoid a Second Collapse

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Chinese metal tycoon Dai Guofang’s first steel empire was brought down by a government campaign to rein in market exuberance, tax evasion accusations and a spell behind bars. Two decades on, he’s once again fighting for survival.

A one-time scrap-metal collector, he built and rebuilt a fortune as China boomed. Now with the economy cooling, Dai faces a debt crisis that threatens the future of one of the world’s top stainless steel producers, Jiangsu Delong Nickel Industry Co., along with plants held by his wife and son. Its demise would send ripples through the country’s vast manufacturing sector and the embattled global nickel market.

 

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