Recent economic and financial developments

  • December 16, 1999

    Economic and Financial Developments to 16 February 2000: An Update to the Monetary Policy Report

    Highlights * The pace of economic activity in the United States remains strong, exceeding earlier expectations. * With the stronger momentum of external demand, the Bank now expects Canada's real GDP growth in 2000 to be in the upper half of the 2.75 to 3.75 per cent range projected in the last Monetary Policy Report. * Core inflation was below expectations in November, partly because of price discounting on certain semi-durables. * The Bank expects core inflation to increase to 2 per cent in the first quarter of 2000. * Because of higher energy prices, the rate of increase in total CPI is expected to rise to close to 3 per cent early in the year. * Developments during the last three months underscore the risks to Canada's economic outlook highlighted in the last Report : stronger momentum of demand for Canadian output from both domestic and external sources and potential inflationary pressures in the United States. Information received since 14 January, when the update to our November Monetary Policy Report was completed, continues to point to a strengthening outlook for the world economy and for Canada. In the United States, real GDP again exceeded expectations—rising at an annual rate of 5.8 per cent in the fourth quarter. While some price and cost pressures are evident in the United States, strong productivity growth has thus far held unit labour costs down. Because of the rapid expansion of demand above the growth of potential capacity, however, and the associated inflation risks, the Federal Reserve increased its federal funds rate by 25 basis points to 5.75 per cent on 2 February. Although trend inflation remains low in the industrial countries, a number of other major central banks have also raised their policy rates in the last couple of weeks because of concern about future inflation pressures, given strengthening demand. The buoyancy of external demand, particularly that coming from the United States, continues to show in our latest merchandise trade numbers. Export growth in November remained strong, with the overall trade balance in large surplus. World prices for our key primary commodities also continue to firm in response to rising global demand. On the domestic side, the latest information on demand and production points to continued robustness. Real GDP (at factor cost) rose 0.6 per cent (4.6 per cent year-over-year) in November, and employment continued to grow strongly through year-end and into January. Other indicators, including the latest data on the monetary aggregates, support this strong economic picture. The Bank now expects real GDP growth in 2000 to be near the top of the 2.75 to 3.75 per cent range projected in November. Our core measure of inflation was 1.6 per cent (year-over-year) in December, slightly below expectations, partly because of temporary discounts on certain items. Core inflation is still expected to move up to the midpoint of the Bank's 1 to 3 per cent target range in the first quarter. Over the same period, the total CPI will likely rise to close to 3 per cent because of the recent sharp step-up in energy prices but is still expected to come down towards the core rate during the course of 2000 as energy prices moderate. The Bank of Canada raised its Bank Rate by 25 basis points to 5.25 per cent on 3 February. The factors behind this decision included the strong momentum of demand in Canada from both external and domestic sources, the importance of approaching full capacity in a prudent way, and the risk of a spillover of potential inflation pressures from the United States.
  • August 15, 1999

    Recent Developments: An Update to the Monetary Policy Report

    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.

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