Bank of Canada Review Article

  • August 9, 1995

    Uncertainty and the transmission of monetary policy in Canada (HERMES-Glendon Lecture)

    Gordon Thiessen, Governor of the Bank of Canada, delivered the HERMES-Glendon Lecture at York University, Toronto, in March 1995. The speech focussed on the interrelationships of uncertainty and the transmission of monetary policy to the economy. It looked at how the various types of uncertainty influence the behaviour of economic actors, and at how uncertainty affects the transmission of monetary policy through the economy. The first part of the lecture outlines the Bank of Canada's view of the transmission mechanism, with considerable attention paid to the role of uncertainty. In the second part, the various ways in which the Bank has tried to reduce uncertainty are discussed. The various kinds of uncertainty that impinge on the economy and on the policy process are addressed.
  • May 9, 1995

    Interpreting recent changes in monetary aggregates

    In 1994, broad monetary aggregates such as M2+ grew at an unusually slow rate, indicating a continuation of low inflation. Narrow money, M1, ballooned early in the year, partly for technical reasons. However, its overall deceleration for the year as a whole would be consistent with lower output growth in the first half of 1995 than was seen the year before. During the first half of 1994, there was a continued shift by investors from deposits into equity, bond and mortgage mutual funds. In the second half of the year, following a rise in interest rates and a fall in the yields posted by mutual funds, there was a movement back into M2+. In this annual review of the monetary aggregates, the author discusses the reasons for these shifts and their implications for M2+.
  • May 8, 1995

    Exchange rate fundamentals and the Canadian dollar

    Views in the economic literature on the main factors that influence exchange rates have evolved over time in response to economic developments and new trends in economic theory. This article provides a brief interpretative survey of the main theories of exchange rate determination. The factors that influence exchange rate developments are varied and complex. However, the authors show that the broad movements of the Canada-U.S. real exchange rate since the early 1970s can be captured by a simple equation that highlights the role of commodity prices and Canada-U.S. interest rate differentials. The equation is used to interpret the evolution of the real exchange rate over the last two decades. At times, the real exchange rate deviates significantly from what the equation would predict. One explanation is that the equation omits certain factors that can influence the exchange rate, particularly in the short run. These may include fiscal policy variables, international indebtedness, political uncertainty, and investor sentiments—factors that are difficult to quantify but that have been particularly relevant in recent years.
  • May 7, 1995

    Disinflation in the 1990s: The experience of the industrialized world

    Canada has not been alone in making substantial progress towards price stability. Average inflation in the industrialized countries fell markedly in the first half of the 1990s, the third such episode of broad-based disinflation in the last 20 years. By the latter part of 1994, inflation in many countries had fallen to rates that had not been sustained since the early 1960s, generally converging to within a range of 1 to 3 per cent. Despite the decline in inflation to similar low levels, there were a number of interesting developments across the industrialized countries. For example, the pace of disinflation slowed noticeably after 1992 despite continued weak demand conditions. Inflation in countries that experienced a sharp depreciation in their exchange rates in the first half of the 1990s was, on average, no higher than elsewhere. The author identifies various factors affecting inflation outcomes in the industrialized countries. These include special factors, such as changes to indirect taxes, as well as more fundamental determinants of inflation, including the degree of economic slack. The presence of these factors, and perhaps the way in which inflation responded to them, varied across countries. One common element, however, was an increased commitment by monetary authorities across the industrialized economies to the goal of achieving and maintaining price stability.
  • May 6, 1995

    Managing the federal government's cash balances: A technical note

    In addition to its primary role as the country's central bank, the Bank of Canada also acts as the federal government's banker and financial adviser. One of the activities associated with this role as fiscal agent is managing the government's Canadian dollar balances. This function is examined in this article. The main priority is to ensure that the government has sufficient cash to meet its daily needs. This requires careful forecasting and monitoring of the government's daily receipt and expenditure flows, as well as an ongoing borrowing program to refinance maturing debt and to replenish the balances during periods when outflows, on average, exceed inflows. The cost of borrowing to raise cash balances for the government is considerably higher than the interest earned on any balances that are available "on demand." To reduce this net cost, balances in excess of those required for daily needs are invested in "term" deposits that earn a higher rate of interest than that earned on the demand balances. The net cost of holding government balances has also been reduced through the use of cash management bills, which are flexible, short-term borrowing instruments that complement the government's regular weekly issues of 3-, 6- and 12-month treasury bills.
  • December 9, 1994

    The term structure of interest rates as a leading indicator of economic activity: A technical note

    The spread between long-term and short-term interest rates has proven to be an excellent predictor of changes of economic activity in Canada. As a general rule, when long-term interest rates have been much above short-term rates, strong increases in output have followed within about a year; however, whenever the yield curve has been inverted for any extended period of time, a recession has followed. Similar findings exist for other countries, including the United States. But although Canadian and U.S. interest rates generally move quite closely together, the Canadian yield curve has been distinctly better at predicting future Canadian output. The explanation given for this result is that the term spread has reflected both current monetary conditions, which affect short-term interest rates, and expected real returns on investment and expectations of inflation, which are the main determinants of long-term rates. This article is mainly a summary of econometric work done at the Bank. It also touches on some of the extensive recent literature in this area.
  • December 8, 1994

    Some macroeconomic implications of rising levels of government debt

    The level of government debt in Canada relative to gross domestic product has risen steadily since the mid-1970s. Canada has not been alone in experiencing rising government indebtedness, but in comparison to other countries, Canada's debt load is now distinctly on the high side. The author reviews some of the effects of rising government debt levels on macroeconomic performance and provides some calculations aimed at illustrating their possible long-run impact on the Canadian economy. His analysis, which is based on a model of the Canadian economy used at the Bank of Canada, suggests that higher levels of government debt reduce both the level of output and the share of output that is available for domestic consumption. The central policy implication is that there are substantial benefits to halting the rise in government debt and thus preventing further erosion of consumption opportunities.
  • December 7, 1994

    Repo, reverse repo and securities lending markets in Canada

    Repurchase agreements (repos), reverse repos and securities lending markets permit a variety of institutions to conduct a broad range of financial transactions efficiently. In addition, they allow financial market participants to augment the returns on their cash holdings and securities portfolios. Canadian repo and securities lending markets have grown rapidly in recent years, following the expansion of such markets in major financial centres around the world; the volume of transactions in Canada now averages between $35 billion and $50 billion per day. The author notes that structural and regulatory changes in Canada have played important roles in promoting this growth. The vast majority of repo and securities lending transactions involve securities issued by the Government of Canada—principally Government of Canada bonds.
  • November 9, 1994

    The Bank of Canada's new Quarterly Projection Model (QPM): An introduction

    This article provides an overview of the Bank of Canada's new economic model, the Quarterly Projection Model (QPM), which has been under development at the Bank since 1989. The model has two roles. It is used to make economic projections, which are conducted quarterly and form an important basis for discussions of monetary policy between staff and senior management. QPM is also a research tool: it was developed to analyse important changes to the economy or macroeconomic policies which require a deeper understanding of long-term economic forces. The model pays particular attention to factors shaping long-term equilibrium, such as stocks of wealth, capital, government debt and net foreign assets. Various sources of dynamics, including the adjustment of forward-looking expectations, operate to determine the transition path to equilibrium and the consistency of expectations. The article discusses the history of QPM and earlier economic models at the Bank, and provides a simple overview of how the model works.
  • November 8, 1994

    The demand for currency and the underground economy

    The underground economy in Canada has attracted increased attention over the past few years, yet there is no precise way to measure its size. Recent estimates vary between 4 per cent and 15 per cent of gross domestic product. This article provides an overview of measurement issues and recent estimates. It then focusses on the "monetary" approach to estimating the size of the underground economy. This approach is based on the assumption that the demand for bank notes provides a clue as to the size of the underground economy. The article concludes that estimates that use this approach must be viewed with considerable caution. They are based on a number of assumptions that are difficult to verify and that significantly affect the results.

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