August 15, 1999 Highlights * Despite some lingering uncertainties on the global scene, developments since the May 1999 Monetary Policy Report have resulted in a firmer tone in the outlook for the world economy and for Canada. * The Canadian economy now appears poised to attain growth in 1999 towards the upper end of the 2 3/4 to 3 3/4 per cent range set out in the May Report. * Trend inflation is still expected to edge up but to remain in the lower half of the Bank's inflation-control target range of 1 to 3 per cent. Information received since early July, when the update to the Monetary Policy Report was completed, continues to point to a generally firmer tone in the outlook for the world economy and for Canada. Nonetheless, lingering uncertainties on the global scene bear watching. In Japan, there are signs that the protracted economic recession may be coming to an end. In Europe, expectations of a pickup in the pace of expansion as the year progresses are becoming more widely held. Economic and financial conditions remain generally positive in those emerging-market economies in Southeast Asia and Latin America that are vigorously pursuing sound domestic policies. In the United States, real GDP rose by an estimated 2.3 per cent in the second quarter—below most expectations. A significant part of the slowdown, however, was attributable to a major inventory adjustment. Growth of real final domestic demand also decelerated, but remained strong at just under 4 per cent, following growth of over 6 per cent in the two previous quarters. Overall, the U.S. economy continues to operate at high levels, thereby heightening concerns about potential inflationary pressures. While inflation at both the retail and producer-price levels appears to be contained, with tight labour markets (employment was up strongly in July) signs of cost pressures have emerged recently, reflecting rising rates of labour compensation and slowing productivity growth. Here in Canada, indicators of domestic demand such as retail and wholesale trade, motor vehicle sales, housing activity, imports, and business investment plans all support a picture of solid expansion through the spring and summer months. Exports, after several quarters of very strong growth, remain at high levels, and economy-wide production data (e.g., monthly GDP at factor cost) through May also indicate a steady, solid pace of expansion. Moreover, world commodity prices have risen somewhat further recently, providing support to Canada’s resource sector. The prices of some key primary commodities produced in Canada (especially energy and base metals) have been among the fastest rising. And as anticipated, there was renewed employment growth in July, notably in full-time, paid jobs. On balance, recent data suggest that real GDP increased by about 3 1/2 per cent (annual rate) in the second quarter—broadly in line with expectations at the time of the July update. The 12-month rate of increase in the core CPI edged up to 1.7 per cent in June. As in the previous two months, the June increase was slightly higher than expected. This is partly because of the more rapid pass-through of the earlier exchange rate depreciation into retail prices. However, with slack still present in the economy, core inflation is expected to remain close to current levels, below the midpoint of the Bank’s 1 to 3 per cent target range, through the balance of 1999. Uncertainty about inflationary pressures in the United States and the possible implications for the stance of U.S. monetary policy, as well as shifts in international investment portfolios (encouraged by improving economic conditions overseas), have resulted in significant movements in financial markets in recent weeks. In July, the U.S. dollar weakened markedly against both the yen and the euro. While the Canadian dollar was softer against its U.S. counterpart for much of the last month, it has strengthened recently, supported by Canada’s low inflation and solid economic expansion and by firmer world commodity prices. Interest rates in Canada remain below those in the United States across all maturities, although the differentials have narrowed since early July.
August 14, 1999 This article by the Bank's visiting economist examines the role of money in the transmission of monetary policy. Professor Laidler argues against the view of money as a passive variable that reacts to changes in prices, output, and interest rates but has no direct causative effect on them. He maintains that the empirical evidence supports the view of money playing an active role in the transmission mechanism. While he agrees that individual monetary aggregates can be difficult to read because of instabilities in the demand-for-money function, he argues that monetary aggregates, particularly those relating to transactions money, should have a more significant place in the hierarchy of policy variables that the Bank considers when formulating monetary policy.
August 13, 1999 The initiatives reviewed by the author were undertaken to ensure a liquid and well-functioning market for Government of Canada securities in light of the significant shift in the government's financial position. They include changes made in 1998 by the Bank of Canada and the government to the rules governing auctions and to the Bank's surveillance of the auction process, changes to the treasury bill and bond programs, and implementation of a pilot buyback program for Government of Canada marketable bonds. In addition, the Investment Dealers Association of Canada adopted a code of conduct for the secondary market. These initiatives were well received by the market and appear to have had a positive impact. The Bank and the government are, however, continuing their search for ways to maintain and enhance the efficiency of this market.
August 12, 1999 The authors examine the recent evolution of commodity prices. They discuss the factors behind the price declines that occurred between the summer of 1997 and the end of 1998, including the key supply factors and the drop in Asian demand caused by that region's concurrent financial and economic crisis. They then review the effects of the reduction in world commodity prices on economic activity in Canada. They point out that the depreciation of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar, together with the continued strength of the U.S. economy, has partly offset the negative effects on Canadian aggregate demand.
August 11, 1999 This article outlines the extensive work undertaken by the various participants in Canada's financial sector to ensure "business as usual" heading into January 2000 and beyond. The article looks at preparations in the Bank of Canada's own mission-critical systems and at those of the country's major clearing and settlement systems for which the Bank has oversight responsibility. It also looks at the steps taken by the financial institutions themselves. Contingency planning that takes account of specific year-2000 concerns is also reviewed.