Canada’s economy continues to defy expectations for a pullback.
What economists are saying about the latest GDP numbers
Statistics Canada released data on March 31 that showed the economy grew 0.5 per cent month over month in January, a remarkable reversal from December when GDP contracted 0.1 per cent. January’s reading also beat Bay Street analysts estimate for growth of 0.4 per cent.
While the report showed an economy healthier than many expected, economists now think the GDP surprise could make the Bank of Canada‘s job tougher as it seeks to cool inflation by raising interest rates to tamp down demand.
Here’s what some of them are saying about the GDP numbers and what it means for the Bank of Canada and interest rates.
Charles St-Arnaud, Alberta Central
“Today’s release of the monthly GDP suggests that the Canadian economy started the year strong. As such, the strength in January and February is pointing to growth in the first quarter of 2023 at around three per cent quarter over quarter annual rate, far from a contraction. This follows a period of weakness in the last quarter of 2022, as higher interest rates took a toll on rate-sensitive sectors.
“The Bank of Canada is likely at a crucial juncture and facing a significant dilemma. The central bank may have to choose between fighting inflation and hiking interest rates again or focusing on financial stability and keeping rates on hold.”
Stephen Brown, Capital Economics
“The strength of GDP growth in January, and probably February too, suggests the Bank of Canada will use its April meeting to reiterate that, despite the recent banking turmoil, it is still prepared to raise interest rates again if needed.
“The big surprise is that, despite the early estimates showing falls in manufacturing, wholesale and retail sales in February, the preliminary estimate points to another 0.3 per cent month-over-month gain in GDP last month. That gain implies the economy is heading for growth of about 2.5 per cent annualized this quarter, slightly higher than the two per cent gain we have pencilled in.
“A 2.5 per cent expansion would also be stronger than the bank’s forecast of a 0.5 per cent rise, but recall that the stagnation in GDP last quarter was weaker than the bank’s estimate of a 1.3 per cent gain. Moreover, we know that the rebound in activity is helping to lower prices rather than contributing to inflationary pressures. For example, the CPI passenger vehicle price index fell by 2.5 per cent over the first two months of the year. So while the bank will stick to its hawkish messaging, we doubt recent developments will cause it resume rate hikes.”
Douglas Porter, BMO Economics
“There were many indications that the economy got off to a solid start in 2023, but today’s double-barrelled blast of strength is well above even the most optimistic views. Even if growth stalls in March, it now looks like Q1 will post growth of 2.5 per cent, up from a flat read in Q4. While we continue to look for a notable cool-down in the next two quarters, we are bumping up our GDP growth estimate for all of 2023 by three ticks to one per cent. Suffice it to say that if the strength seen in the opening months of the year persists, the Bank of Canada is going to find itself in a tough spot.”
Randall Barlett, Desjardins Economics
“Today’s outsized move in January real GDP and continued momentum through February leaves little room to equivocate. The Canadian economy started the year on a very strong footing. We are now tracking real GDP growth approaching three per cent annualized in Q1, well above the bank’s 0.5 per cent tracking in the January 2023 monetary policy report.
Tony Stillo, Oxford Economics
Matthieu Arseneau and Alexandra Ducharme, National Bank of Canada Economics
“Despite the continued rebound of the Canadian economy in Q1 after a sluggish quarter, we still believe that the Bank of Canada should maintain its pause in monetary tightening. The rate hikes have been very aggressive and will continue to weigh on the economy given the lag in their pass-through.
“In addition, the outcome of the ongoing turmoil in the global banking sector and its impact on credit conditions in the coming months remains uncertain. We expect to see ups and downs in output in later quarters that will leave GDP essentially flat over the next year. This is an argument for patience. All the more so given the encouraging developments in inflation that are now emerging.”
Jay Zhao-Murray, currency market analyst, Monex Canada
“While the Bank of Canada is currently on a conditional pause as it awaits more data, the strength in the real economy, as measured by upward revisions from last month’s preliminary figure (for GDP) and another probable above-potential reading in February, could tilt the central bank in a more hawkish direction.
“While it is still too early to call for another rate hike, the odds are shifting in that direction: BoC officials stated they are mostly worried about upside risks to inflation and have shown little panic about recent global banking troubles. Stronger growth means the costs to another hike are falling, and it also puts upward pressure on inflation. Markets largely agree with our assessment, as they are now pricing only 35 basis points of rate cuts by year end, the fewest in nearly three weeks, and a far cry from the 90 basis points of cuts priced just a week ago.”
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Gas prices down, diesel up ahead of weekend – Halifax.CityNews.ca
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- Gas prices down, diesel up ahead of weekend Halifax.CityNews.ca
- Maritime gas prices CTV News Atlantic
- Gas, diesel, furnace oil prices up across P.E.I. Saltwire
- Gas prices dip, diesel up a bit in N.B. country94.ca
- Gas, furnace oil prices increase on P.E.I. CBC.ca
- View Full Coverage on Google News
Maritime gas prices – CTV News Atlantic
For the most part, drivers in the Maritimes are paying slightly less for gas Friday, but the cost of diesel is up.
In mainland Nova Scotia, gas is down three cents to a minimum price of 152.9 cents per litre.
In Cape Breton, motorists are now paying a minimum price of 154.8 cents per litre for regular self-serve gasoline.
Diesel increased 2.5 cents, the minimum price is now 137.7 cents per litre.
The minimum price for diesel in Cape Breton is now 139.6 cents per litre.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
On Prince Edward Island, gas increased 1.1. cents, the minimum price is now 165.6 cents per litre.
Diesel on the island increased 1.5 cents, the minimum price is now 157.5 cents.
Meanwhile, in New Brunswick, gas is down 2.4 cents, the maximum price is now 164.6 cents per litre.
Diesel is up slightly to 0.6 cents, the maximum price is now 158.6 cents a litre.
NL Unemployment Rate Slightly Rises – VOCM
Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate rose to 5.2 per cent in May, marking the first increase since August 2022.
The rate for Newfoundland and Labrador rose slightly to 10.2 per cent from 10.1. In metro, the jobless rate in May hit 5 per cent, a slight increase from the 4.9 recorded in April.
The job report comes two days after the Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point, citing concerns about a string of hot economic data, including low unemployment.
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