Recent economic and financial developments

  • October 22, 2005

    How the Appreciation of the Canadian Dollar Has Affected Canadian Firms: Evidence from the Bank of Canada Business Outlook Survey

    To track how firms were affected by the appreciation of the Canadian dollar in 2003 and 2004 and the steps they took in response, the Bank included supplementary questions in the quarterly Business Outlook Survey conducted by its regional offices. About half of the firms surveyed reported being adversely affected, one-quarter experienced a favourable impact, and the remainder reported no effect. Jean Mair classifies and summarizes the firms' responses, identifying the sectors that were most and least affected. Causes of the impacts are identified, as well as the actions firms took as a result of the appreciation. The article looks at these actions over time to see what they tell us about firms' adjustment process.
  • June 18, 2005

    Recent Trends in Canadian Defined-Benefit Pension Sector Investment and Risk Management

    Defined-benefit (DB) pension plans account for the majority of employer pension fund assets. In recent years, a number of DB plans have become underfunded, in sharp contrast to the 1990s, when many plans had large actuarial surpluses. The deterioration in the financial health of DB plans has underscored various longer-term structural issues that could make it increasingly difficult for plan sponsors to manage the financial risks of these plans. Tuer and Woodman examine how funding deficits, a greater focus on plan liabilities, a low yield environment, and changing investment beliefs are influencing investment decisions in the Canadian DB pension sector. They review the funding of DB plans, changing views on the equity-risk premium, and the shift towards liability-centred approaches to investment and how these developments are affecting pension sector investment. They also consider additional influences on the pension sector, including the limited supply of long-term bonds, the elimination of the foreign-property rule, and the movement towards fair-value accounting and a financial-economics approach to actuarial valuation, as well as their implications for financial markets.
  • August 23, 2004

    The Evolution of Liquidity in the Market for Government of Canada Bonds

    Using turnover ratios, Anderson and Lavoie describe the recent evolution of liquidity in various secondary government bond markets, focusing specifically on the market for Government of Canada securities. They attribute much of the recent variation in liquidity to such cyclical factors as changes in the interest rate environment and investors' appetite for risk, as well as developments in equity markets in the late 1990s. They also examine longer-term structural and policy-related trends, including the rate of adoption of financial and technological innovations and the level of government borrowing and debt-management initiatives.
  • Regulatory Changes and Financial Structure: The Case of Canada

    Staff Working Paper 2004-26 Christian Calmès
    The author documents some stylized facts about the Canadian financial structure. He explores these empirical facts in the context of Canadian financial legislation and finds that, over the 1990s, Canadian businesses became more heavily dependent on financial markets as their primary source of external funding.
  • August 23, 2003

    Financial Developments in Canada: Past Trends and Future Challenges

    Freedman and Engert focus on the changing pattern of lending and borrowing in Canada in the past thirty to forty years, including the types of financial instruments used and the relative roles of financial institutions and financial markets. They examine how borrowing mechanisms have changed over time and consider the challenges facing the Canadian financial sector, including whether our financial markets are in danger of disappearing because of the size and pre-eminence of U.S. financial markets. Some of the trends examined here include syndicated lending, securitization, and credit derivatives, a form of financial engineering that has become increasingly important in the last few years. They also study bond and equity markets to determine whether Canadian capital markets have been hollowed out or abandoned by Canadian firms and conclude that the data do not provide much support for that view.
  • May 16, 2000

    Recent Developments in the Monetary Aggregates and Their Implications

    Narrow Money—Transactions Money The growth rate of the narrow monetary aggregates picked up in 1999, reflecting the expansion in economic activity and the stabilization of interest rates. The sharp acceleration of the narrow aggregates in recent months suggests buoyant growth in GDP in coming quarters. Signs of a possible rise in inflation are also emerging. Over the longer run, for inflation to remain in the Bank's 1 to 3 per cent target range, the growth of narrow money would have to slow down from its current pace. In 1999, the growth rate of M1 also began to converge with that of the other narrow aggregates, M1+ and M1++. This suggests that the influence of the special factors that have been affecting the growth rate of M1 has diminished. Broad Money—"Store of Value" Household savings represent deferred consumption, and therefore the broad monetary aggregate provides information about future spending and, hence, inflation. In 1999, the very broad measure of money, M2++, grew at much the same rate as it did in 1998. This outcome is in line with inflation remaining in the inflation-control target range over the next couple of years.
  • May 15, 2000

    Credibility and Monetary Policy

    A highly credible monetary policy helps to reduce the degree of uncertainty that can surround the objectives of such policy. When the monetary policy pursued by the central bank is credible, the expectations of the public are focused on a target. If the public believes that the Bank will act to bring inflation back to the target, then its expectations will not react so strongly to fluctuating price trends. In turn, fluctuations in inflation, interest rates, output, and employment should be less pronounced than in the absence of such credibility. The adoption of inflation control as a monetary policy objective by some countries has led central banks to take steps to enhance the credibility of monetary policy. For the Bank of Canada, these include * the publication of our Monetary Policy Report each May and November, with formal updates each February and August * the initiation of communications activities across the country * the use of the overnight interest rate as a short-term operating target * the issuing of a press release each time the Bank changes its key rates To date, most of the studies on this topic have concluded that success in keeping inflation within a target range has helped to increase the credibility of Canadian monetary policy. These surveys suggest that expected inflation, which stood at about 5 per cent in 1990, declined to around 2 per cent by 1999 (Chart 1, page 15). Indeed, according to these surveys, for the entire period during which the Bank has had a target range for inflation, expected inflation rates have remained within that range. Inflation expectations have also reacted very little to changes in the total CPI, suggesting that the targets have helped to focus expectations on the target rate and have thus enhanced the credibility of monetary policy (Chart 2, page 16). One particular study shows that the life of collective wage agreements in Canada has been increasing and that the number of such agreements containing cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) clauses has steadily declined. The authors of this study suggest that this may reflect the greater credibility of Canadian monetary policy (Table 1, page 16). The proportion of mortgages with five-year terms is now higher than it was in the mid-1980s, and many financial institutions have been offering 7- to 10-year mortgages. This also suggests that inflation targets have gained credibility.
  • 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.
  • December 15, 1998

    Recent economic and financial developments

    This commentary, completed in mid-January, discusses economic and financial developments in Canada since the publication of the November Monetary Policy Report. Conditions in world financial markets have improved since November, but the global economic environment is still uncertain. The main uncertainty centres on Japan, which remains in recession. If bank reforms and stimulative fiscal measures are effectively implemented in that country, a gradual recovery should begin there during 1999. The economic expansion in other major industrialized countries, which together account for over half of world output, is expected to remain well sustained. The U.S. economy, in particular, continues to outstrip expectations and even if it slows, as expected, will likely still operate at high levels. In Canada, indicators of domestic demand remain relatively firm, although the growth of monetary and credit aggregates has moderated. The Bank's outlook for 1999 continues to be one of ongoing economic expansion. Inflation is expected to stay in the lower half of the target range of 1 to 3 per cent. Update on 23 February 1999: The global economic environment in which Canada operates is still uncertain. In Japan, there is little sign yet that the economy is about to move out of its slump, while in Europe, the latest data point to a softening in economic activity. In sharp contrast, the U.S. economy continues to outstrip expectations, ending 1998 with growth of 5.6 per cent (annual rate) in the fourth quarter—much stronger growth than had been anticipated earlier. Despite lingering economic uncertainty, global financial markets have been much more stable compared with last autumn and do not seem to have been substantially affected by the events in Brazil. This would appear to reflect the effects of reductions in official interest rates around the world since the autumn as well as the success some emerging-market economies have had in dealing with their problems. As a result, international investors and markets seem to have a renewed sense of their ability to assess and differentiate among debtor countries as well as other borrowers. Here in Canada, even if we allow for the effects of temporary factors (such as the return to normal operations following the end of major labour disruptions), the underlying momentum of the economy is healthy. While resource-based export revenues remain weak, exports of other goods, particularly automotive products, surged in the closing months of 1998, bolstered by continued strong U.S. demand and Canada's improved competitive position. Growth in consumer spending eased through the latter part of 1998, mainly because of the effects on confidence of last autumn's financial turbulence and the end of financing incentives on automobile purchases. The reversal of these factors should have a beneficial effect on consumer demand early in 1999. Housing starts recovered in the fourth quarter, following the resolution of labour disputes, while business investment continued to expand modestly. The robust, broad-based employment gains recorded through the fourth quarter carried into January 1999. On balance, recent data suggest that real GDP increased by about 4 per cent (annual rate) in the fourth quarter—at the upper end of the range expected at the time the commentary was completed. The latest data point to core inflation fluctuating around the lower end of the inflation-control target range of 1 to 3 per cent. While upward pressure on the price level from the past exchange rate depreciation continues, the dampening effects of ongoing intense retail competition, excess supply in product markets, and restrained unit labour costs have kept overall inflation somewhat below expectations. Improved financial market conditions, coupled with the general firmness of recent domestic economic data and a slightly more favourable outlook for commodity prices, have supported a stronger Canadian dollar since completion of the commentary. Because of this, monetary conditions have tightened somewhat further since mid-January. With a measure of stability returning to global financial markets, concerns about the effects of financial volatility on consumer and business confidence in Canada have diminished. As noted in the commentary, such concerns were an important consideration for the Bank in the period following the Russian crisis, when particular emphasis had to be placed on calming financial markets. The easing of these pressures has made it possible to refocus attention on the medium-term policy objective of keeping the trend of inflation inside the target range.

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