Similar to the experiences in many other countries, household indebtedness in Canada has exhibited an upward trend over the past 30 years. Both mortgage and non-mortgage (consumer) credit have contributed to this development. In this article, the authors use microdata to highlight the main factors underlying the strong trend increase since the late 1990s. Favourable housing affordability, owing to factors such as income growth and low interest rates, has supported significant increases in home-ownership rates and mortgage debt. Much of the rise in consumer credit has been facilitated by higher housing values (used as collateral for loans) and financial innovation that makes it easier for households to access this credit.Topics: Credit and credit aggregates
The Basel capital framework plays an important role in risk management by linking a bank's minimum capital requirements to the riskiness of its assets. Nevertheless, the risk estimates underlying these calculations may be imperfect, and it appears that a cyclical bias in measures of risk-adjusted capital contributed to procyclical increases in global leverage prior to the recent financial crisis.Topics: Financial Institutions; Financial stability; Financial system regulation and policies
Many central banks around the world have embraced inflation targeting as a monetary policy framework. Interest is growing, however, in price-level targeting as an alternative. The choice of frameworks has important consequences for financial contracts, most of which are not fully indexed to the price level. Changes in the price level therefore lead to changes in the real value of contracts. Price-level targeting would reduce the size of these changes in real wealth and decrease uncertainty about the future price level. This article assesses the merits of price-level targeting vis-à-vis inflation targeting from a debt-revaluation perspective, with a focus on channels affecting risk premiums, the maturities of nominal debt contracts, and redistribution of wealth. A general conclusion flowing from the analysis is that accounting for the revaluation of nominal debts and assets strengthens the relative merits of price-level targeting compared with inflation-targeting.Topics: Inflation targets; Inflation: costs and benefits; Monetary policy framework
This article describes the major trends in the growth of labour productivity in Canada since the early 1960s and summarizes our current knowledge about the causes of the historical patterns. Particular attention is given to the period since the mid-1990s during which productivity growth has been significantly higher in the United States than in Canada.
The author reviews the empirical evidence on the contribution of information and communication technology to the recent difference between Canadian and U.S. rates of productivity growth. Other determinants of a country's productivity performance, such as human capital formation and openness to international trade, are also examined. The article concludes with an assessment of the prospects for an increase in the trend rate of productivity growth in Canada over the coming years.Topics: Productivity
Uncertainty about the level of future inflation adversely affects the economy because it distorts the savings and investment decisions of households and businesses. Since these decisions typically involve planning horizons of many years, the adverse effects from inflation uncertainty can be reduced by adopting a policy framework that makes future inflation more predictable over long time horizons.
When the inflation-control target was renewed in May 2001, the agreement affirmed that monetary policy will be directed at moving inflation to the 2 per cent midpoint of the target range over a six-to-eight-quarter horizon. The author describes how this policy commitment increases the predictability of average inflation over periods longer than one year. This relationship is illustrated using the Canadian experience from the inflation-targeting period.Topics: Inflation targets
This study examines the effect of nominal-wage rigidities on wage growth in Canada using a hazard model and micro data for union contracts. The hazard model is specified in a way that allows considerable flexibility in the shape of the estimated notional wage-change distribution.Topics: Inflation targets; Labour markets
This paper uses Tobit models and data for union contracts to examine the extent of downward nominal-wage rigidity in Canada. To be consistent with important stylized facts, the models allow the variance of the notional wage-change distribution to be time-varying and test for menu-cost effects.Topics: Inflation targets; Labour markets
On 8 and 9 June 2000, the Bank held a seminar to examine some key issues affecting the upcoming decision on Canada's inflation-control target for the period after 2001. The main issues covered at the seminar were the extent of downward nominal-wage rigidity and its implications for employment as well as the relative merits of price-level targeting versus inflation targeting. Another critical question that was discussed was how to balance the evidence on all the relevant issues in order to develop an overall view on the appropriate long-run target.
The author gives a brief overview of the seminar followed by detailed summaries of individual papers.Topics: Inflation targets
There has recently been considerable discussion about the ability of inflation to facilitate the adjustment of prices and wages and thus enhance economic performance. The discussion centres on whether wages are downwardly rigid. Wages are said to be downwardly rigid if it is difficult for the wages of some workers to fall despite underlying supply and demand pressures for decreases. Some authors have suggested that if downward nominal wage rigidity is prevalent it would be desirable to select a positive rate of inflation as the target for monetary policy.
In this article, the authors evaluate the wage-rigidity hypothesis. They first examine the empirical evidence to assess whether the degree of downward rigidity is significant in Canada. They then analyze some key assumptions of the wage-rigidity hypothesis and its implications for employment. They also look at the empirical evidence on whether the combination of downward wage rigidity and low inflation has reduced employment.Topics: Inflation: costs and benefits
The consumer price index (CPI) is used to measure changes in the price level of consumer goods and services. As an indicator of changes in the cost of living, it is susceptible to various types of measurement biases.
This article provides estimates of the size of these biases in the Canadian CPI. It concludes that the rate of increase in the CPI probably overstates the rate of increase in the cost of living by about 0.5 percentage points per year.Topics: Inflation and prices
The purpose of this study is to test the hypothesis that inflation uncertainty increases at higher levels of inflation. Our analysis is based on the generalized autoregressive conditional heteroscedasticity (GARCH) class of models, which allow the conditional variance of the error term to be time-varying. Since this variance is a proxy for inflation uncertainty, a positive relationship between the conditional variance and inflation would be interpreted as evidence that inflation uncertainty increases with the level of inflation.Topics: Inflation and prices; Uncertainty and monetary policy
The consumer price index (CPI) may be an imperfect measure of changes in the cost of living owing to measurement biases known as commodity substitution bias, new goods bias, quality bias and outlet substitution bias. When the sum of these individual biases is positive, the rate of change in the CPI overstates the increase in [...]Topics: Inflation and prices