Recent economic and financial developments

  • August 14, 1998

    Recent economic and financial developments (with update on 12 August)

    This commentary, which was completed at the end of June, provides an account of economic and financial developments in Canada since the publication of the last Monetary Policy Report in mid-May 1998. International developments since May have increased the degree of uncertainty surrounding the outlook for the Canadian economy. While most indicators of domestic demand as well as the growth of the monetary and credit aggregates suggest continued relative buoyancy in the domestic economy, the foreign trade data bear clear evidence of the drag arising from the situation in Southeast Asia and Japan. However, with the various risks to the outlook appearing to be greater than previously thought, the Bank will continue to monitor developments carefully and constantly reassess its judgment of Canada's economic and financial situation. The core rate of inflation is expected to remain in the lower half of the 1 to 3 per cent inflation-control target range for the remainder of the year. Update 12 August 1998: The degree of uncertainty surrounding the international situation and its implications for the Canadian economy remains high. In Southeast Asia, economic activity continues to decline and financial markets remain nervous. In Japan, the latest economic data point to further weakness. In sharp contrast, the U.S. economy continues to outperform expectations, with domestic demand showing robust growth according to the latest information. As well, recent developments in Europe point to moderate economic expansion. Here in Canada, allowing for the effects of temporary factors such as layoffs associated with the strike at General Motors, the underlying momentum in the economy continues to be positive. The many cross-currents affecting the Canadian economy are evident in the data released since the commentary on recent developments was completed. In the resource sector, production and exports have been weak because of reduced demand from Asia. However, exports of other goods, particularly non-automotive manufacturing goods, have been buoyant, reflecting strong demand from the United States. In Canada, retail sales continue to rise and sales of existing homes are also growing, consistent with the pickup in the growth of household credit. At the same time, new home construction has weakened, in part because of strikes in the Greater Metropolitan Toronto area. Business investment and the growth of total business credit have also remained relatively strong. Recent information on overall investment intentions for 1998 show marked growth, consistent with the latest monthly indicators on investment in machinery and structures, but the resource and non-resource sectors are showing divergent near-term trends. The latest labour force data also point to sustained underlying growth in employment and incomes. On the whole, recent data suggest that real GDP increased by about 2 1/2 per cent (annual rate) in the second quarter, somewhat less than anticipated at the time the commentary was completed. Our current estimate is that the various strikes and other production disruptions (the largest being the spillover effects from the GM strike in the United States) lowered second-quarter real GDP growth by about 1/2 of a percentage point. Thus, in the absence of these disruptions, growth would have been closer to 3 per cent. Economic activity in Canada will continue to be affected by the GM strike and associated layoffs into the third quarter, complicating interpretation of the economic data for this period. This and the uncertainties on the external front underscore the need for continued close monitoring of economic developments. On balance, the positive elements of ongoing strength in consumer and investment spending in Canada, together with the high level of U.S. demand for our products, continue to support economic expansion at rates that will reduce unused capacity. On the inflation front, the latest information points to core inflation remaining in the lower half of the 1 to 3 per cent inflation-control target range. While the effects on the price level from exchange rate depreciation will be working to raise inflation, offsetting factors, such as excess supply in the economy and price competition from Asian producers, will keep overall inflation pressures subdued. Since completion of the commentary, monetary conditions have eased further as a result of the depreciation of the Canadian dollar. As noted in the commentary, the extent of the current international uncertainty is causing volatility in financial markets and fluctuations in monetary conditions over a wide range.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Les marchés du travail régionaux : une comparaison entre le Canada et les États-Unis

    Staff Working Paper 1997-17 Mario Lefebvre
    The purpose of this study is to compare the behaviour of regional labour markets in Canada and the United States. The study shows that the degree of persistence of unemployment is significantly higher in the provinces of Canada than it is in the various American regions.
  • Lagging Productivity Growth in the Service Sector: Mismeasurement, Mismanagement or Misinformation?

    Staff Working Paper 1997-6 Dinah Maclean
    While the service sector has been growing rapidly as a share of total output, aggregate productivity growth has generally lagged behind that of the goods sector. In this report, the author assesses a range of explanations for lagging service sector productivity growth.
  • The Liquidity Trap: Evidence from Japan

    Staff Working Paper 1997-4 Isabelle Weberpals
    Japanese economic activity has been stagnant since the collapse of the speculative asset-price bubble in 1990, despite highly expansionary monetary policy which has brought interest rates down to record low levels. Although several reasons have been put forward to explain the sustained weakness of the Japanese economy, none is more intriguing from the viewpoint of a central bank than the possibility that monetary policy had been largely ineffective because the Japanese economy entered a Keynesian "liquidity trap."
  • May 11, 1996

    Recent developments in monetary aggregates and their implications

    In 1995, the broad aggregate M2+ grew at an annual rate of 4.5 per cent—almost twice the rate recorded in 1994—as competition from mutual funds drew less money from personal savings deposits. An adjusted M2+ aggregate, which internalizes the effect of close substitutes such as CSBs and certain mutual funds, grew by only 3.4 per cent. Gross M1 grew by 8.2 per cent during the year, reflecting an increased demand for transactions balances as market interest rates declined and as banks offered more attractive rates of interest on corporate current account balances. The robust growth of gross M1 in the second half of 1995 suggests a moderate expansion of economic activity in the first half of 1996, while moderate growth in the broad aggregates indicates a rate of monetary expansion consistent with continued low inflation. In this annual review of the monetary aggregates, the authors also introduce a new model, based on calculated deviations of M1 from its long-run demand, which suggests that inflation should remain just below the midpoint of the inflation-control target range over the next couple of years.
  • The Electronic Purse: An Overview of Recent Developments and Policy Issues

    Technical Report No. 74 Gerald Stuber
    Futurists have been speculating about the prospects for a cashless society for many years, and such predictions became more frequent following the introduction of "smart" cards - cards containing a computer chip - in the mid-1970s.
  • November 9, 1995

    The effect of foreign demand shocks on the Canadian economy: An analysis using QPM

    Historically, rapid and unsustainable increases in the demand for goods and services originating within the economies of Canada's major trading partners have had a significant impact on the domestic economy. These episodes are typically characterized by increases in world commodity prices and by a tightening of monetary conditions abroad to contain inflationary pressures. In this article, the author uses the Bank's quarterly projection model (QPM) (described in the autumn 1994 issue of the Review) to trace the mechanisms that transmit these foreign developments throughout the Canadian economy. In addition, he outlines the response that is required from domestic monetary authorities to maintain a target rate of inflation.
  • August 10, 1995

    Aspects of economic restructuring in Canada, 1989-1994

    The way in which Canadian firms produce goods and services has changed dramatically during the 1990s. A major feature of this restructuring has been a shift towards greater use of capital goods, particularly computer-based technology, relative to labour in production processes. The author examines this phenomenon from a macroeconomic perspective, identifying the principal factors behind the trends in investment and employment since the late 1980s. The analysis focusses on the relative costs of capital and labour over the period and on their implications for output and employment.

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