Economists say Bank of Canada to hold interest rates after latest hike
Here’s what economists have to say about the latest Bank of Canada interest rate hike
The Bank of Canada raised its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 4.5 per cent, the highest it’s been since 2007.
This is the central bank’s eighth consecutive increase in an unprecedented cycle of hiking that began last March when the lending rate stood at 0.25 per cent.
Here is what economists have to say about where rates will go from here.
Stephen Brown, Capital Economics
The Bank of Canada accompanied its smaller 25-basis-point hike with new guidance that it intends to hold the policy rate at the current 4.5 per cent while it assesses the impact of the cumulative interest rate increases so far. While the bank did not rule out future rate hikes entirely, the new guidance reinforces our view that the bank’s next move is likely to be a rate cut, albeit not until later this year.
We continue to (believe) that the bank is underestimating how quickly core (inflation) prices will decline, with our forecasts still pointing to a drop in headline inflation to two per cent by the second half of this year. The upshot is that we remain confident that today’s hike will be the last and we see scope for the bank to start cutting interest rates again as soon as the third quarter.
The Bank of Canada hiked rates by a further 25 basis points today, but provided some unexpected guidance that this may be the peak for the current cycle. The 25-basis-point increase, taking the overnight rate to 4.5 per cent, was well anticipated by the consensus. The bank pointed to stronger than expected growth at the end of 2022, a tight labour market and still elevated short-term inflation expectations as reasons for the policy move today. However, the statement also pointed to an easing in the three-month rates of core inflation, and the expectation that overall inflation will come down “significantly” this year due to the energy prices, improvements in supply chains and the lagged effects of higher interest rates.
Possibly because of greater confidence that inflation is easing, the bank changed its guidance to state that if the economy evolves as it expects then the policy rate will be kept on hold at its current level, although the statement also warned that the bank was willing to raise rates further if needed. The MPR (Monetary Policy Report) projections for GDP growth are set at one per cent this year and 1.8 per cent in 2024, which is little changed relative to October but a bit higher than our own forecasts. Because of that, we suspect that the economy will indeed evolve inline or even a little weaker than the bank suspects, and that today’s hike in interest rates will indeed mark the final one of this cycle.
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The BoC’s first meeting of 2023 looks to be the last in which it will raise its policy rate. Heading into today, the bank had communicated that it could go either way with today’s decision — deciding between a final hike or a pause. Given the robustness of consumer spending and employment trends, the BoC clearly felt it needed this final hike to solidify the turn in economic momentum.
Looking at the bank’s forecast, the economy is set for a consumer led slowdown, with GDP likely to “stall through the middle of 2023.” Greater conviction in this has also led the BoC to cut its inflation forecast. With the belief that the economy is on the path to price stability, the BoC can now step to the sidelines and let its restrictive policy filter through the economy. Though it does have the option to hike again should inflation prove uncooperative, we are expecting it to hold rates at this level for most of 2023, before cutting at the end of the year to drive a better balance between interest rates being too far in restrictive territory and a weakening economy.
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