Bank of Canada Review Article

  • December 14, 1997

    Recent economic and financial developments

    The Canadian economy expanded at an average rate of over 4 per cent through the second half of 1996 and the first three quarters of 1997. The expansion was supported by accommodative monetary conditions, substantial employment gains, low inflation, an improved fiscal postion, and strong U.S. demand. These factors will continue to underpin a scenario of sustained growth in output and employment in the period ahead. With the situation in Asia still evolving, it is difficult to be precise about the size of its overall impact on Canada. At the same time, there have been some positive developments including stronger-than-anticipated economic performance in the United States, Mexico, and Europe and declining longer-term interest rates in most industrial countries. The core rate of inflation slipped slightly below the 1 to 3 per cent target range in the closing months of 1997. With the unwinding of some of the special factors that contributed to the decline, trend inflation is expected to move back inside the range in coming months.
  • December 13, 1997

    The overnight market in Canada

    The overnight market is an active forum where participants with a temporary surplus or shortage of funds can lend or borrow until the next business day. The level of interest rates in the overnight market has always been closely linked to the Bank of Canada's monetary policy operations. In this article, the authors describe the evolution of the market from its roots in the 1950s, the development of the Bank's monetary policy operations in the market, and how the market operates today. They also examine the outlook for the overnight market, particularly the implications of the new Large-Value Transfer System.
  • December 12, 1997

    Potential output growth: Some long-term projections

    This article examines factors that have affected the growth of potential output since the 1950s and presents three possible scenarios for its growth in the future. The authors conclude that there will be a marked slowing in the future growth of potential output as a result of slow population growth and a reduction in labour force participation as the population ages.
  • December 11, 1997

    Price stability, inflation targets, and monetary policy: Conference summary

    This article summarizes the proceedings of a conference hosted by the Bank of Canada in May 1997. The first conference held by the Bank on this subject was in 1993, two years after the introduction of inflation targeting in Canada. The 1997 conference revisited many of the analytic issues related to price stability that had been examined at the first conference, while also considering several additional questions. This time, with the extension of inflation-control targets beyond 1998 under consideration, particular emphasis was placed on the role and design of those targets. The conference also featured a round-table discussion among practitioners of monetary policy in three inflation-targeting countries—New Zealand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Their remarks, which focussed on the experience with inflation targets, bring out very clearly the common challenges facing monetary policymakers in open economies.
  • November 14, 1997

    European economic and monetary union: Background and implications

    The European Union, which currently consists of 15 states, occupies an important place among the advanced economies. The final stage of the European economic and monetary union (EMU) is scheduled to begin in January 1999 with the adoption of a common currency called the "euro." A decision on which countries will participate in the euro area in 1999 will be made next spring based in part on the achievement of the economic criteria laid out in the Maastricht Treaty. In this article, the authors, after a brief discussion of the historical background, cast some light on the institutional aspects of the EMU, on the formulation and implementation of economic policy, as well as on the internal and external effects of EMU completion. For Canada, the direct implications of the shift to the euro appear to be relatively modest, at least in the short run.
  • November 13, 1997

    Statistical measures of the trend rate of inflation

    As a guide for the conduct of monetary policy, most central banks make use of a trend inflation index similar to that employed by the Bank of Canada: the CPI excluding food, energy, and the effect of indirect taxes. In addition to their basic reference index, some central banks regularly publish statistical measures of the trend rate of inflation. The method used for producing these measures is, for the most part, based on the hypothesis that extreme price fluctuations generally reflect temporary shocks to the inflation rate, rather than its underlying trend. In this paper, the author offers a broad survey of studies on the measurement of trend inflation that have been published by the Bank of Canada and presents the results of the most recent work on the subject. Particular attention is paid to two statistical measures that the Bank follows more closely than other measures; namely, the CPIX, a price index that excludes eight of the most volatile CPI components, and CPIW, a measure that retains all the components of the overall index but gives a lower weighting to the most volatile.
  • November 12, 1997

    Clearing and settlement systems and the Bank of Canada

    Clearing and settlement systems are essential to the smooth functioning of a modern market-based economy such as Canada's. During the past decade, there have been significant efforts in Canada and abroad to improve electronic clearing and settlement systems that handle payments obligations, either uniquely or in conjunction with transactions related to the purchase and sale of a broad range of financial instruments such as debt, equity, foreign exchange, or derivatives. This article examines some of the risks faced by participants and end-users of these systems and reviews the Bank of Canada's role in relation to these systems. For a number of years, the Bank has been involved informally with major clearing and settlement systems with a view to ensuring that systemic risk is adequately controlled. In July 1996, the Payment Clearing and Settlement Act was proclaimed. This Act formalized the role of the Bank in the oversight of clearing and settlement systems for the purpose of controlling systemic risk. The article provides an overview of the Bank's responsibilities. It also describes certain new powers that the Act made available to the Bank that could be exercised in its dealings with clearing and settlement systems.
  • August 14, 1997

    The fiscal impact of privatization in Canada

    Privatization—the transfer of activities from the public to the private sector—gained international prominence in the 1980s because of the need to reduce budget deficits and growing concerns about the efficiency of state-owned enterprises and government bureaucracies. This article examines privatization in Canada and its effect on governments' fiscal positions. Privatization has generally been less rapid and extensive in Canada than elsewhere, partly because of the comparatively moderate size of our public sector. Nevertheless, federal, provincial, and municipal governments have increasingly reduced their direct involvement in the Canadian economy by selling Crown corporations, contracting with private firms to deliver public services, and transferring the development of public infrastructure projects to the private sector. The fiscal impact of privatizing Crown corporations varies with such factors as the profitability of the enterprise, the size of the government's initial investment, and past write-downs. In general, when privatizations are part of a broader effort to improve public finances, they can contribute to fiscal consolidation by reducing budgetary requirements and debt levels. When services and infrastructure projects are privatized, it is expected that more efficient private sector management will reduce government expenditures. For example, a private consortium may be better able to manage the financial risks involved in building an infrastructure facility, such as cost overruns or the withdrawal of contractors, than the public sector. The key to raising efficiency and lowering costs, however, is competition, not privatization per se. Therefore, the cost savings arising from the privatization of services or public works depend crucially on the terms of the contract. Overall, when structured to improve economic efficiency, privatization is likely to enhance the economy's performance, thereby producing long-term economic and budgetary gains.
  • August 13, 1997

    The new bank note distribution system

    In this article, the author outlines the recent changes made to the way Canada's bank notes are distributed. The new system allows financial institutions to exchange notes directly with one another at designated points across the country, rather than through Bank of Canada agencies, as was previously the case. The institutions communicate with the Bank of Canada through a computerized inventory-management system. Two Bank of Canada operations centres monitor note quality and supply new notes to the financial institutions. While the Bank continues to maintain firm control over the distribution of Canada's bank notes, the management of information rather than physical notes will improve efficiency and allow significant cost savings to the Bank of Canada and to the government.
  • May 14, 1997

    The changing business activities of banks in Canada

    Over the last 30 years, the business mix of banks in Canada has changed significantly. Progress in information-processing technology, legislative changes, and market forces have combined to blur the traditional distinctions between banks and other financial institutions and have allowed banks to offer a much wider range of products and services. In this article, the author reviews the expansion of bank lending to households over this period and their recent movement into personal wealth management. While these trends were facilitated by revisions to legislation, they also reflected the changing needs of the "baby boom" generation, first as home-buyers and, more recently, as middle-aged investors. On the commercial and corporate side, banks reacted to the rapid expansion of securities markets (and to the reduced demand for intermediation by both lenders/depositors and borrowers) by moving into investment banking, after legislative changes opened this business to them in the late 1980s. They also used their expertise in credit assessment and risk management to provide credit guarantees and to act as counterparties and intermediaries in derivatives markets. Notable in this broadening of bank activities has been their more recent entry into the trust, mutual fund, and retail brokerage business. The banks have also made preliminary forays into insurance. The expansion of off-balance-sheet activities has made fee income an increasingly important part of bank earnings. The article also looks at the emerging tools and techniques that will most likely transform the structure of banking in the future.

Follow the Bank