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Monetary Policy Report Press Conference Opening Statement – Bank of Canada

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Good morning. Thank you for joining me to discuss today’s policy announcement and the Bank’s Monetary Policy Report (MPR).

My message today is twofold—of increased confidence and of continued attention.

A year ago, at the time of my first MPR as Governor, the economy was in a very deep hole. We were just coming out of the first wave of the virus, more than two million Canadians were unemployed, and inflation was well below our 1 to 3 percent target range. Uncertainty was extremely high. Vaccines were being developed, but nobody knew when they would be available or even if they would prove effective.

Since then, a lot has happened. We have endured two more waves of the virus, and this has held back recovery. But thanks to the resilience and ingenuity of Canadian households and businesses, and exceptional fiscal and monetary policy support, the economy has continued to grow. It has been choppy and very uneven, and everyone has had to cope with a lot of uncertainty. But the economy has proven to be impressively resilient. And now highly effective vaccines have arrived.

With cases falling, rapid progress on vaccinations and easing containment measures, the Governing Council is increasingly confident that growth will rebound strongly as the economy once again reopens, and this time growth will be more durable.

Second, as the unique circumstances created by the pandemic continue to evolve, there is continued need for careful attention to the dynamics of the recovery and inflation. Globally, the economic outlook remains highly dependent on the course of the virus and new variants are a concern. In Canada, we still have some way to go to a complete recovery, and the rebound in economic activity will proceed at different speeds across sectors. The process of reopening the economy won’t be entirely smooth. For example, we are experiencing supply bottlenecks for some goods and services as demand rebounds faster than supply can ramp back up. These unique circumstances of the pandemic are now helping to push inflation temporarily above our target band.

As we reopen the economy, we expect to see some volatility, and we will continue to pay close attention to the progress of the recovery and to the evolution of inflation. 

Before I turn to your questions, let me say a few words about the Governing Council’s policy discussions.

We spent some time considering the progress of and risks to the global recovery. The global economy is recovering strongly, but vaccination rates and growth are uneven across advanced and emerging-market economies. Growth is particularly strong in the United States, which is further ahead in its reopening and benefitting from substantial fiscal stimulus. Oil prices have moved higher with stronger global demand, while other commodity prices remain elevated. The Canadian dollar is close to where it was in April relative to the US dollar, but it is slightly stronger against a broader basket of currencies.

Coming back to Canada, we discussed the many ways the pandemic is affecting the economy and the prospects for recovery. There was a strong consensus that growth will strengthen and broaden in the months ahead as consumers return to more normal spending patterns, higher foreign demand lifts exports and businesses increase investment.

Consumption is expected to continue to lead the recovery. Some of the sectors hit by lockdowns, including retail, restaurant, and other hard-to-distance sectors, are already seeing a rebound, while others, like business and international travel, may take longer to recover.

Employment should continue to rebound over the next few months as the reopening process continues. The job gains we saw in June are encouraging, particularly for workers in the service sector who bore the brunt of lockdowns. But to get back to the pre-pandemic employment rate, we still have more than 500,000 jobs to recoup. Our recent Business Outlook Survey showed that plans to hire staff are widespread as firms prepare for rising demand—but finding workers with the right skills can be difficult and will take time.

Comparing the outlook today with our April forecast, we see that growth in the first half of this year is a little weaker than we projected, reflecting both supply chain issues and more protracted containment restrictions in some parts of the country. But looking ahead, we expect a strong rebound in the second half of this year and more sustained growth through 2022 than we previously forecast. We now expect the economy to expand by around 6 percent in 2021—slightly weaker than our April forecast. We have revised up our 2022 forecast for growth to 4½ percent and project 3¼ percent growth in 2023.

The Governing Council also discussed the amount of slack in the economy and the outlook for potential growth. Estimates of these measures have always been imprecise but are especially difficult given the rapid changes wrought by the pandemic. In the projection, economic slack is absorbed in the second half of 2022. To help manage the uncertainty surrounding this assessment, we will be watching a broader spectrum of indicators of slack, including a range of labour market measures.

The outlook for inflation reflects the dynamics of overall demand and supply in the economy, as well as a number of temporary factors. In recent months, consumer price index inflation has risen above the Bank’s 1 to 3 percent target range. Three major factors are behind this temporary strength, all related to the pandemic. First, gasoline prices rebounded from very low levels a year ago and are now above pre-pandemic levels. Second, other prices that had fallen sharply last year with plummeting demand are now recovering to more normal levels with the reopening of the economy. And third, disrupted global value chains and pandemic-related supply constraints, including shipping bottlenecks and a global shortage of semi-conductors, have pushed up the prices for cars and some other goods. Overall, supply bottlenecks are creating sharper movement in prices that is pushing inflation temporarily higher, and these supply issues now look more important than previously thought. As a result, inflation is now projected to be somewhat above the target band through 2021. But these temporary effects are forecast to dissipate near the end of this year and inflation is forecast to ease back toward 2 percent in 2022. We expect the factors pushing up inflation to be temporary, but their persistence and magnitude are uncertain, and we will be watching them closely.

Longer term, given our commitment to hold the policy rate at the effective lower bound until slack is absorbed, the economy is projected to move into modest excess demand, so inflation is slightly above target through 2023 before moving toward target in 2024.

In sum, the reopening of the economy and the strong progress on vaccinations have given us reason to be more optimistic about the direction of the economy. But we are not there yet, and we are mindful that the process is likely to be bumpy, and some scars will remain.

At today’s decision, the Governing Council judged that the recovery still needs extraordinary support from monetary policy. We remain committed to holding the policy interest rate at the effective lower bound until economic slack is absorbed so that the 2 percent inflation target is sustainably achieved. Based on our current projection, this happens sometime in the second half of 2022.

Our quantitative easing (QE) program continues to reinforce this commitment. We decided to adjust the program to a target of $2 billion weekly purchases of Government of Canada bonds, down from a target of $3 billion a week. This adjustment reflects continued progress towards recovery and the Bank’s increased confidence in the strength of the Canadian economic outlook.

Decisions regarding further adjustments to the pace of net bond purchases will be guided by the Governing Council’s ongoing assessment of the strength and durability of the recovery. If the economy evolves broadly in line with our outlook, then over time it won’t need as much QE. Further adjustments to our QE program will continue to be gradual, and we will be deliberate both in our assessment of incoming data and in the communication of our analysis. We will continue to provide the appropriate degree of monetary policy stimulus to support the recovery and achieve the inflation objective.

With that, let me stop and turn to you for questions.

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Analysis | What Is the 'Special Debt' China Uses to Spur Its Economy? – The Washington Post

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China’s government is cash-strapped with Covid-19, tax breaks and a property downturn pulling down income while spending keeps rising to pay for economic stimulus and containing virus outbreaks. One option Beijing has to fill the gap is to sell special sovereign bonds, a rarely used financing tool it last dusted off in 2020 to help lift the economy without inflating the budget deficit. Before that, they were employed during the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s and to help seed China’s sovereign wealth fund in 2007.

1. What are special sovereign bonds?

Unlike regular government debt, special bonds raise cash for a certain policy or to help solve a particular problem. They are not part of China’s official budget and thus not included in deficit calculations. The State Council, China’s cabinet, can propose the sale of such bonds, which then requires approval only by a standing committee of the National People’s Congress, which generally meets every two months, rather than the full legislative body, which meets only once a year. That means they can be issued in a more flexible way than regular bonds, which have to be planned for in the budget and approved by the annual session of the NPC. 

2. Why use this tool now?

China has a target for gross domestic product growth of around 5.5% for this year, but with Covid lockdowns and a property slump, economists say the government is nowhere close to achieving that. One way President Xi Jinping is hoping to fuel a faster recovery is by spending trillions of yuan on infrastructure projects. Funding that kind of stimulus through the budget will be challenging though, given the plunge in tax revenues this year. Part of the financing will come from China’s state-owned development banks, like China Development Bank and Agricultural Development Bank of China, which have been given an additional 800 billion yuan ($120 billion) credit line to provide loans for infrastructure investment. Special sovereign bonds could be an additional source, given some were used for that purpose in 2020. Wang Yiming, an adviser to the central bank’s monetary policy committee, highlighted special national bonds as an option. More likely, the notes may be used to bridge the fiscal gap and finance the stimulus measures the government announced in May, according to Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. analysts Betty Wang and Xing Zhaopeng.

3. How were these bonds used before?

Some 1 trillion yuan of notes were sold in 2020, early in the pandemic. Exceptionally that time, the Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo decided to sell the bonds and the NPC gave the official go-ahead at its full session in May. Some 700 billion yuan from that sale was transferred to local governments to support their Covid control efforts and infrastructure investment, according to a report by the Ministry of Finance. The rest was brought into the central government’s general public budget for subsidizing local spending on the outbreak, it shows. Before that: 

• In 2007, 1.55 trillion yuan of special government bonds were issued to capitalize China Investment Corp., the sovereign wealth fund. The bond proceeds were used to buy currency reserves from the People’s Bank of China, and those funds then went to CIC. Some of the bonds worth around 950 billion yuan will come due in the second half of this year, Bloomberg-compiled data show.

• During the Asian financial crisis, China sold 270 billion yuan of special government bonds — at the time the country’s largest bond issue — to raise capital for its big state banks and help offset losses from nonperforming assets.

4. How might the bonds affect financial markets?

A surge of bond supply would drive down prices of the securities and push up yields. The issuance in mid-2020 helped to boost the yield on China’s 10-year government bond by more than 20 basis points in about three weeks, to a near six-month high. At the time, liquidity conditions were tight because of a deluge of local government bond supply before the special debt hit the market and the central bank’s cautious approach to monetary easing, in part to avoid fueling asset bubbles. The situation is different now. Interest rate cuts and other central bank easing measures mean the nation’s banks are flush with cash that they can use to soak up any extra bond supply. Also, local governments — which issue their own special bonds used mainly for infrastructure investment — have been ordered to sell almost all of this year’s quota of 3.65 trillion yuan of debt by the end of June. That should leave room for the market to absorb new debt issuances in the second half of 2022.

5. How much are we talking? 

Jia Kang, a former head of a finance ministry research institute, said the 1 trillion yuan sold in 2020 could serve as a “reference” for policy makers when deciding on how much to issue this year. Others think it might be more. Larry Hu, head of China economics at Macquarie Group Ltd., estimated that the Covid outbreaks this year in China likely caused a budget shortfall of 1 trillion to 2 trillion yuan. A sale that size could contribute 1-2 percentage points to gross domestic product growth given the extra financial boost it will give local governments to spend, he estimated, adding the impact on the financial market is expected to be “limited.”

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Britain's Battered Economy Is Sliding Toward a Breaking Point – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Britain under Prime Minister Boris Johnson is running into the biggest headwinds it’s faced since the 1970s, heaping pain on an economy still reeling from Brexit and the pandemic.

After suffering from unprecedented shocks in recent years, the nation is succumbing to more intractable problems marked by plodding growth, surging inflation and a series of damaging strikes.

The result is a plunge in consumer confidence that analysts warn may lead to a recession. Railway workers walked off the job in anger that their living standards are slipping, and teachers, doctors and barristers may be next.

The malaise is a far cry from the boom and “cool Britannia” reputation that Tony Blair’s government enjoyed through the early part of this century.

The headline figures make grim reading. The economy is on track to shrink in the second quarter, raising the possibility that the UK is already in a recession. Even when the outlook appeared brighter, officials estimated that growth would settle at a below-par 1.8% a year, with no end in sight to the feeble productivity that has blighted the country for over a decade.

While growth is on track to lag most major economies next year, inflation is also on the rise. Consumer prices surged by 9.1% in the year through May, the most for 40 years. 

The Bank of England expects inflation to accelerate again when energy bills are allowed to rise in the autumn, reaching more than 11%. 

It’s a blow for the UK, which led the world in growth after the pandemic, and recalls the dark days of the 1960s and 1970s when commentators and politicians identified Britain as the “sick man of Europe” because of its performance.

Those figures overshadow deeper structural problems hobbling the UK. Chief among them is productivity growth, which slowed to a crawl after the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. Only Italy put in a worse performance.

How much a worker can produce is important because it drives the long-term potential of the economy. Low productivity limits the pace at which output can grow and depresses wage packets. Real wages took years to recover to their 2007 levels after the financial crash.

An hour of work in the UK generates around $60, according to the OECD. The figure is over $70 in the US and about $67 in France and Germany. Economists and policy makers debate the causes of the malaise but say that fixing it is crucial if Britain is to get out of the slow lane.

The gaps in performance within the UK are equally stark, with London consistently outpeforming other regions, in part due to the concentration of financial services in the capital city. Johnson came to to power in 2019 on a pledge to “level up” poorer parts of the country, but there are few signs that the policy is working.

One explanation for the productivity gap is a lack of investment. British companies spend less on things like plant, machinery and technology than those in most other major economies.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak says the tax system is one of the problems and is working on a way to improve allowances companies can claim for making investments. 

Brexit uncertainty also seems to have unsettled executives, with investment flat-lining since the 2016 public vote to leave the European Union. Had they continued to spend as they did before the referendum, investment would be around 60% higher today.

Life outside the EU has also had an impact on trade as importers and exporters contend with higher trade barriers.  Despite a sharp fall in the pound since the vote, there is little evidence to suggest the external sector has benefited from increased competitiveness. 

Analysis by Bloomberg Economics shows the UK lagged behind the trade performance of other big nations before the pandemic, and has failed to fully share in the global trade rebound since then.

What Bloomberg Economics Says:

“It’s been six years since the UK voted to leave the European Union and more than one since it established a new relationship with its main trading partner. From a 16% devaluation of the pound to an eye-watering slide in trade and investment, Brexit’s impact is plain to see. The data have only reinforced our view that life outside of the EU would leave the UK worse off.”

–Ana Luis Andrade, Bloomberg Economics. Click for the INSIGHT. 

The housing market is another constraint. Prices have risen almost without break since 1995, straining affordabilty for first-time buyers. Properties are in short supply in places like London that’s long been the engine driving the national economy. 

The expense and difficulty of moving limit labor mobility, depriving companies and public services of key workers, and leave consumers channeling more wealth into the property market than their peers abroad.

Housing is the most visible drain on consumers, but wages are lagging too. Real wages adjusted for inflation are now falling at the fastest pace in 20 years. In 2019, wages in the UK trailed far behind those in the US and Canada.

Workers are rebelling, with rail unions embroiled in the biggest work stoppage since 1989 and teachers, doctors and barristers are threatening to walk off the job. 

The strife recalls the 1970s, when Harold Wilson’s Labour government put industry on a three-day week because of an energy crisis and strikes by coal miners.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Key Indicator Shows China’s Economy Set For Further Slump – Forbes

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Just when you thought China might be back on track, a key economic indicators suggests the opposite is coming down the pike.

Recently the price of iron-ore slumped, indicating that demand for this key ingredient in steel making is slipping as well. Recently one metric ton of the or would fetch $116, down more than 25% from almost $160 in early March, according to data from TradingEconomics. That’s quite a tumble.

As the largest maker of steel, China is also by far the largest buyer of iron-ore, and so when prices are slipping it strongly suggests that China isn’t buying as much iron-ore as it normally does. In 2020, the communist country produced 57% of all steel or around 1.1 billion tons, according to World Steel Association data. No other country comes close.

Typically when China’s steel production falls then its economy stalls. We saw this back in mid 2015 when its output of the metal dropped for the first time in more than three decades. The resulting fallout came in August when the Chinese stock market took a tumble and shook other securities markets around the globe.

The question now is what will happen next in China. Likely there’ll be further softness in the economy. If the the price of iron-ore remains soft or even falls further then its a clear sign that China isn’t planning on its usual output of steel.

That matters because steel has long been the lifeblood of that country’s economy. Teh huge real estate construction that has happened over the past two decades required steel for building skyscrapers, factories and dwellings across the massive Asian country. Steel has also been needed as feedstock for the country’s huge manufacturing industry which produces key components for automobiles across the globe.

What’s shocking here is that while China is in midst of undoing some of its recent COVID-19-related lockdowns that brought vast swathes of the communist country to an economic standstill. If those locked-down cities were now getting back to work, then why aren’t we seeing signs of an industrial resurgence?

So far, that’s not clear. If things were getting back to any form of normal then we should see demand for iron-ore creep up and along with it the prices of the mineral should rally. Investors in Chinese stocks or even those listed in Hong Kong should remain cautious until we see evidence of a real recovery.

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