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‘Pressing need’ for Bank of Canada to raise interest rates amid inflation surge – Global News

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The likelihood of an interest rate hike from the Bank of Canada next week is growing as record levels of inflation and high housing prices coincide with an anticipated economic rebound from the Omicron wave of the pandemic, some economists say.

Scotiabank Economics said in a note to investors Wednesday that it expects the Bank of Canada to raise its key overnight rate by 25 basis points to 0.5 per cent at its next meeting Jan 26.

This would be the first of multiple interest rate hikes over the course of the year, senior economist Jean-Francois Perrault forecasts, with rates hitting two per cent by the end of 2022.

While the Bank of Canada signalled at the end of last year that interest rate increases were likely for 2022, it had pegged possible hikes towards the middle of the year.

Read more:

Will the Bank of Canada hike interest rates next week? More investors saying yes

But Perrault said in his note that the central bank could be forced to act sooner than anticipated after Statistics Canada reported on Wednesday that the annual rate of inflation hit 4.8 per cent in December — the highest level in 30 years.

“Despite a clear, but temporary, negative impact of Omicron on economic activity, it is clear that inflationary pressures are larger than earlier assessed and require a more robust monetary policy response,” he wrote.

A ‘pressing need’ for higher rates

James Orlando, a senior economist with TD Economics, told Global News in an interview that conditions are right for an interest rate hike in the near future.

“The Bank of Canada is in a position right now where inflation is at this uncomfortable level, where the economy is hot, where we’re likely going to bounce back strongly from this Omicron time period,” he said.

“There really is a pressing need for the Bank of Canada to raise interest rates.”


Click to play video: 'O’Toole takes aim at Canada’s economic update, rising inflation costs'



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O’Toole takes aim at Canada’s economic update, rising inflation costs


O’Toole takes aim at Canada’s economic update, rising inflation costs – Dec 14, 2021

Orlando also believes the hike will start with 25 basis points, noting that after nearly two years of rock-bottom interest rates tied to the pandemic, the central bank won’t “want to shock people.”

Though markets have built in an interest rate hike on Jan. 26, Orlando says there is a possibility the bank will hold off until its March announcement to wait for the Omicron wave to recede and see how businesses bounce back.

“But with everyone expecting it, the question for the Bank of Canada is, why should they wait?” he asks.

Stephen Tapp, senior economist at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, agrees.

“My expectation is that, certainly, a rate hike is on the table next Wednesday,” he tells Global News.

He and Orlando said the Bank of Canada would be able to tie an interest rate hike to a monetary policy report due out the same day. Both noted the increase could wait until the March decision if the governors are feeling skittish about the Omicron recovery, but a warning of a looming increase would at least be in the cards for next week.

Tapp says inflation is having a two-pronged effect on businesses right now. Not only are their costs rising due to more expensive goods, but an anticipated need to increase wages in 2022 to cover inflationary pressures will continue to affect their bottom lines.

Read more:

Businesses indirectly hit in lockdowns slipping through cracks of COVID supports

Can the Bank of Canada solve the ‘inflation puzzle?’

While the central bank might be feeling the pressure to raise interest rates to dampen inflation, some of the causes of surging prices could well be out of its hands.

“There is little that the Bank of Canada can do to address the biggest part of the inflation puzzle, and that is the pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions,” says Tu Nguyen, economist with accounting firm RSM Canada.

Nguyen and most other economists who spoke to Global News this week said inflation could remain around the five per cent mark for the next few months but eventually come back down toward three per cent by the end of the year, closer to the upper bound of the Bank of Canada’s targeted range.

Also putting pressure on the Bank of Canada to act are record high housing prices.

Orlando says that Canada could see “further housing market acceleration” if the Bank of Canada doesn’t start to raise its overnight lending rates.

“As house prices go up, people get bigger and bigger mortgages, they lever themselves up to uncomfortable levels.” he says. “And so you just add so much more vulnerability to the economy.”


Click to play video: 'How inflation could impact the housing market in 2022'



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How inflation could impact the housing market in 2022


How inflation could impact the housing market in 2022 – Dec 15, 2021

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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US stocks rally as Fed minutes meet expectations – Al Jazeera English

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Investors fear that overly aggressive interest rate hikes by the Fed could tip the economy into recession.

Wall Street closed higher Wednesday, boosted after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest monetary policy meeting showed policymakers unanimously felt the United States economy was very strong as they grappled with reining in inflation without triggering a recession.

The minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s May meeting, which culminated in a 50-basis-point rise in the Fed funds target rate – the biggest jump in 22 years – showed most of the committee’s members judged that further such rate hikes would “likely be appropriate” at its upcoming June and July meetings.

“The uniformity of opinion is a good thing,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Baird in Louisville, Kentucky. “There’s a lack of uncertainty of what needs to be done in the near term.”

“By the time [the Fed] gets to September, they will have plenty of economic data to make their move from there, so they continue to maintain optionality,” Mayfield added.

All three major US stock indexes gyrated earlier in the day amid increasing jitters stemming from business and consumer surveys, economic data and corporate earnings reports suggesting a cooling American economy – even as the Fed prepares to toss a bucket of cold water on it to tackle decades-high inflation.

Fears that overly aggressive interest rate hikes by the Fed could tip the economy into recession despite evidence that inflation peaked in March has driven those concerns.

“There’s some credence to the idea that inflation is doing [the Fed’s] job for them,” Mayfield said. “There’s already a cooling occurring, and financial conditions have tightened over the last month because of dollar strength and equity market weakness.”

On Thursday, the Department of Commerce is due to release its second take on first-quarter GDP, which analysts are expected to show a slightly shallower contraction than the 1.4 percent quarterly annualised drop originally reported.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures report will follow on Friday, which will provide further clues regarding consumer spending and whether inflation peaked in March, as other indicators have suggested.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 191.66 points, or 0.6 percent, to 32,120.28, the S&P 500 gained 37.25 points, or 0.95 percent, to 3,978.73 and the Nasdaq Composite added 170.29 points, or 1.51 percent, to 11,434.74.

Nine of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500 rose, with consumer discretionary stocks leading the pack with a gain of 2.8 percent.

Amazon.com Inc and Tesla Inc provided the strongest lift to the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, rising 2.6 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively.

Department store operator Nordstrom Inc surged 14.0 percent on the heels of its upbeat annual profit and revenue forecasts.

Fast-food chain Wendy’s Co jumped 9.8 percent after a regulatory filing revealed that shareholder Nelson Peltz was considering a potential takeover bid for the company.

Shares of Nvidia Corp fell more than 8 percent in after-hours trading after the company’s second-quarter revenue forecast missed expectations.

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Gas Up Nearly 4 Cents; Price Freeze Lifts in Labrador – VOCM

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Despite predictions to the contrary, the regulated price of gas is up in most parts of the province.

Gasoline is up by 3.9 cents a litre, except along the coast of Labrador. Diesel on the island is up by 1.3 cents while diesel in Labrador has dropped by 11.6 cents a litre. Furnace oil costs over a cent a litre more on the island while stove oil on the island up by the same amount. Stove oil in Labrador is down by 23.70 cents a litre.

Propane meanwhile is down by just under 2 cents.

The suspension of maximum price adjustments on the coast of Labrador lifts as of today as fuel deliveries resume for the season—that means significant increases, in some cases by about a dollar a litre, for some fuels.

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Cheese not on the table in Canada-U.K. trade talks as Britain seeks market access

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OTTAWA — The British foreign secretary has often been mocked for her preoccupation with cheese. It started eight years ago when Liz Truss expressed outrage in a speech to her party’s annual conference.

“We import two thirds of our cheese,” she raged. “That is a disgrace.”

Now Truss is facing another battle over cheese, this time with Canada.

Britain wants greater access to Canadian markets for more than 700 varieties of cheese including Stilton, Cheshire, and Wensleydale, a crumbly variety originating from Yorkshire.

But Ottawa has made it clear it does not want to see more British cheddar, let alone artisan varieties such as stinking bishop, renegade monk and Hereford hop, on Canadian fridge shelves.

During the first round of negotiations of the U.K.-Canada trade deal, Canada told Britain that a larger quota for British cheese is not on the negotiating table.

When it was a European Union member, Britain was part of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada, giving it some access to Canada’s cheese market.

After the U.K. left the EU, a “continuity agreement” with Canada was swiftly put in place to maintain the CETA arrangement until a bilateral trade deal could be struck.

Ralph Goodale, Canada’s high commissioner to the U.K., said if Britain wants more access to Canadian markets for its cheese as part of a bilateral free-trade agreement, it will have to knock on Brussels’ door and get its part of the dairy quota back.

“The point is we have already provided that volume in the EU deal and the British left it there without taking it with them,” he said in an interview. “That’s an issue they need to resolve with the Europeans because the Europeans have their quota.”

Goodale said the U.K.’s request for extra access for British cheese — on top of the access given to the EU — is “what the Canadian negotiators consider to be pretty much a dead end.”

“You are talking about a double concession — one we have already made to the EU and the request is being made by the U.K. for yet another one on top of that,” he said.

The high commissioner said Canada values its trading relationship with the U.K., adding that he is confident that a mutually-beneficial trade deal will be reached.

But if Canada allows the British to export more of their cheese it would involve “a major commitment of compensation to dairy producers” in Canada to make up for lost incomes.

In 2018, after the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement gave the U.S. fresh access to the Canadian dairy market, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would compensate Canadian dairy farmers.

Canada’s dairy industry was worth over $7 billion in 2020, according to the Canadian Dairy Commission’s annual report.

There are over 10,000 dairy farms in Canada — most of them in Quebec and Ontario — with an average of 92 cows per farm, it said.

Until at least the end of next year, Britain will be able to keep exporting its cheese to Canada under the trade continuity agreement, the U.K.’s trade department said.

This allows U.K. cheese exporters to access the Canadian market tariff-free under the EU portion of Canada’s World Trade Organization cheese tariff rate quota.

As part of the 1995 WTO agreement on agriculture, Canada established tariff rate quotas for cheese and other dairy products. The quotas set out quantities of dairy that could enter Canada with little or no duty.

For Britain, a fully fledged free trade deal with Canada is crucial after Brexit left it looking for fresh tariff-free markets.

“We want to negotiate an ambitious and comprehensive new agreement with Canada that will strengthen our close and historic bilateral trade relationship,” said a U.K. government trade spokesman in a statement, adding the relationship was worth about $34.5 billion in 2021.

In March, U.K. Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan flew to Canada to announce with Canada’s Trade Minister Mary Ng that bilateral negotiations had officially begun.

In a speech in the House of Lords in London earlier this month, Goodale reported on progress in the talks, saying that “both sides are optimistic that, as good as CETA and the continuity agreement were, we can do better still when Canada and the U.K. negotiate a deal face-to-face, directly with each other.”

Like Goodale, Ng said Canada is confident a free-trade deal with Britain will be reached, enhancing co-operation in a number of areas, including on renewables, sustainability and the digital economy.

“Canada values the relationship with the United Kingdom. They are … an important trading partner and a trade agreement with the U.K. will be very good for Canadian businesses,” she said in a phone interview from Thailand last weekend.

But she was also firm about the need to protect Canada’s dairy producers, and that means keeping more British cheese out.

“I have been very clear, our government has been very clear, that we will not provide access to our supply-managed sector,” she said. “We have been clear about that from the get-go.”

The Canadian dairy sector now produces 1,450 varieties of cheese, including ewe, goat and buffalo varieties, as well as the cheese curds used in the Québécois dish poutine.

At least half of Canada’s cheese is made in Quebec, which is home to a number of artisan varieties including bleu l’ermite, or blue hermit, and Oka, a popular semi-soft rind cheese.

Pierre Lampron, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, has made it clear he will fiercely protect Canadian cheese from British interlopers.

Lampron said he had “validated that the issue of access to the Canadian dairy market was not on the agenda of these trade talks.”

Canada’s protectionist stance toward its dairy industry may have pleased farmers. But it has caused some tension with close allies.

Earlier this month, New Zealand launched a formal trade dispute against Canada, accusing the federal government of breaking promises to give access for dairy imports under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

The Biden administration also recently said it was asking for a second dispute settlement panel under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to review a trade dispute with Canada over dairy import quotas.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

 

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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