Interest Rate Hike
This morning, the Bank of Canada raised its interest-rate target from 0.25% to 0.5%. Yesterdayâ€™s robust GDP numbers had the overwhelming majority of economic pundits arguing that it should and would do so.
But just one week ago, when the stock market was plummeting due to the Euro crisis, most commentators and headlines suggested that the Bank of Canada might have to hold off on hiking rates. Before that, the consensus was that it ought to raise them. So, the conventional wisdom on interest rates made two 180-degree turns in two weeks.
I can claim consistency in arguing against todayâ€™s increase. Todayâ€™s Toronto Star (page B1) features my â€œcase againstâ€ opposite Doug Porterâ€™s â€œcase in favour.â€ Canadian Press also has me as the lonely opposition.
While I still believe that the rate hike is premature, the accompanying statement actually made a couple of encouraging comments. The Bank of Canada signalled that it will not be too aggressive in raising rates again: â€œany further reduction of monetary stimulus would have to be weighed carefully against domestic and global economic developments.â€
The Bank also noted that the GDP growth reported yesterday had been â€œled by housing and consumer spending. . . . The anticipated pickup in business investment will be important for a more balanced recovery.â€ (I added the italics because I think the Bankâ€™s wording correctly points out that business investment has not yet picked up.)
The low rates punish people who save and reward those who accumulate debt, however. And this hurts vulnerable seniors who depend on their savings to live.
I agree with a small rate hike at this time, with mention of no significant rate hike for the near future. Our economy has been fueled by strong housing activity in 2010, but that has been cooling due to changing CMHC lending and qualifying guidelines. Inflation is where it is expected to be, 2%; and our manufacturing sector is showing signs of turnaround. Carney’s team could not make a strong enough case to NOT marginally raise interest rates despite the fragile European economy and weaker than expected US economic recovery.