By Andrea Shalal and David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday warned of the risk of a permanence divergence in the global economy in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, and urged major economies to inject significant new fiscal support to secure a robust recovery.
In a statement to the steering committees of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Yellen underscored the need for major economies to continue supporting developing countries as they grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and high debt burdens.
She urged the World Bank to help countries, particularly the world’s poorest, get timely access to COVID-19 vaccines, and backed accelerated negotiation to replenish the World Bank’s International Development Association fund for the poorest countries – a goal the bank aims to reach by December.
The United States had pledged $4 billion to the COVAX global vaccine distribution initiative, Yellen said, urging others to join in.
She signalled that Washington, which so far has only loaned vaccines to Mexico and Canada, could provide excess doses to other countries in the future.
“The United States will continue to work with partners to increase vaccine supplies, explore sharing excess vaccines, and make sure financing does not become an obstacle for global vaccination,” Yellen said, without providing any details.
Yellen’s comments reflect the Biden administration’s focus on strong international cooperation to tackle global challenges – a sharp departure from the “go-it-alone” approach pursued by former President Donald Trump’s administration.
“The (COVID-19) crisis has exacerbated the trend of rising income inequality, raising concerns about a divergent path within and across countries. We also face the existential threat of climate change. We can only resolve these problems through strong international cooperation,” Yellen said in remarks prepared for her first meeting with the IMF’s International Monetary and Financial Committee and the World Bank’s Development Committee.
The former head of the Federal Reserve said substantial fiscal and monetary support from major economies had improved the global economic outlook significantly, but more efforts were needed.
Washington was implementing a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan and was working on another large infrastructure package, Yellen said, urging other major economies to take similar actions.
“The job is not yet done, given high uncertainty and the risk of permanent scarring,” she said. “I urge major economies to not just avoid removing support too early, but to strive to provide significant amounts of new fiscal support to secure a robust recovery.”
Yellen said developing countries should work with the IMF and World Bank on economic policies and structural reforms and seek full-fledged IMF financing programs, which carry conditions, where necessary. Some countries may need deeper debt treatment, she added.
She called on all creditors to “fully and transparently” implement the Group of 20’s common framework for debt treatments to avoid “unnecessary delays that can prolong debt overhangs and exacerbate growth shocks.”
She also urged the World Bank to lead on “transformative climate investments” and to continue to set an aggressive agenda on climate and the green recovery from the crisis.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and David Lawder; Editing by Toby Chopra and Paul Simao)
Canada to go big on budget spending as pandemic lingers, election looms
By Julie Gordon
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada‘s Liberal government will deliver on its promise to spend big when it presents its first budget in two years next week amid a fast-rising third wave of COVID-19 infections and ahead of an election expected in coming months.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has pledged to do “whatever it takes” to support Canadians, and in November promised up to C$100 billion ($79.8 billion) in stimulus over three years to “jump-start” an economic recovery in what is likely to be a crucial year for her party.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals depend on the support of at least one opposition group to pass laws, and senior party members have said an election is likely within months as it seeks a clear majority and a free hand to legislate.
Furthermore, by September, all Canadians who want to be vaccinated will be, Trudeau has said.
Freeland has said the pandemic created a “window” of opportunity for a national childcare plan, and that will be reflected in next Monday’s budget along with spending to accelerate Canada‘s shift toward a more sustainable economy.
“It will be a green and innovative recovery plan aimed at creating jobs,” said a government source who declined to comment on specific measures. The budget will aim to help those “who have suffered most” the effects of the pandemic, the source said.
Critics say the government would be better to hold off on blockbuster spending because the economy has shown it is poised to bounce back, and to prevent the country from racking up too much debt.
“Clearly a garden-variety stimulus package is the last thing we need. This is pile-on debt,” said Don Drummond, an economist at Ontario’s Queen’s University.
“The risk is that at some point interest rates are going to go up and we’re going to be in trouble,” he said, pointing to the mid-1990s when Canada‘s debt-to-GDP ratio skyrocketed, leading to rating agency downgrades and years of austerity.
The Bank of Canada cut its benchmark interest rate to 0.25% to counter the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis and has said rates will not rise until labor market slack is absorbed, currently forecast for into 2023. That may change when it releases new projections on April 21.
More than 3 million Canadians lost their jobs to the pandemic. As of March, before a third wave forced new lockdowns, only 296,000 remained unemployed because of COVID.
Despite still-high unemployment levels in hard-hit service sectors, the economy has expanded for nine straight months even as provinces have adjusted health restrictions to counter waves of infections.
“Once we see sustained reopening, we do think that the recovery will have quite a bit of momentum on its own,” said Josh Nye, a senior economist at RBC Economics.
“We think Canada‘s economy will be operating pretty close to full capacity by this time next year,” he said.
Economists surveyed by Reuters expect Freeland to project a deficit in the range of C$133 billion to C$175 billion for fiscal 2021/22, up from the C$121.2 billion ($96.7 billion)
deficit forecast in November. https://tmsnrt.rs/3wSJPcm
The deficit for fiscal 2020/21 ended in March is forecast by the government to top a historic C$381.6 billion ($304.5 billion).
Canada announced on Monday a C$5.9 billion ($4.7 billion) aid package for the country’s largest airline carrier, Air Canada, and said talks were ongoing with No. 2 carrier WestJet Airlines Ltd and others.
(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Fergal Smith in Toronto; Editing by Steve Scherer and Peter Cooney)
CANADA STOCKS – TSX ends flat at 19,228.03
* 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.
Canadian dollar outshines G10 peers, boosted by jobs surge
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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