Canadian Manufacturing

BoC holds rate steady, says strong economy still faces headwinds

Choosing to be cautious, the Bank of Canada's statement predicted that the "very strong growth" over the first three months of the year will be followed by some moderation in the second quarter


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OTTAWA—The Bank of Canada is sticking with its trendsetting interest rate of 0.5 per cent, saying uncertainties continue to overshadow the economy’s stronger-than-expected start to the year.

In explaining its decision Wednesday to hold the rate, the central bank once again highlighted weak wage growth and the softening rate for underlying inflation as examples the economy still has room for improvement.

The bank’s scheduled rate announcement comes after it raised its 2017 growth projection last month following a surprisingly healthy start to the year in areas such as employment, consumer spending and the housing markets. In Wednesday’s statement, the bank added better business investment numbers to the list.

“Recent economic data have been encouraging,” the bank said.

“Consumer spending and the housing sector continue to be robust on the back of an improving labour market, and these are becoming more broadly based across regions.”

The bank’s statement, however, also predicted that the “very strong growth” over the first three months of the year will be followed by some moderation in the second quarter, even though at the same time it expects the U.S. economy to rebound.

Analysts had widely predicted governor Stephen Poloz to keep the rate locked at its very low level of 0.5 per cent, as significant unknowns underlined by the bank in the past continue to swirl around the U.S. agenda on trade and taxation.

“The uncertainties outlined in the April (monetary policy report) continue to cloud the global and Canadian outlooks,” said the bank, without making any specific mentions this time about the potential policy path of Canada’s largest trading partner.

With no monetary policy report released Wednesday, observers will scrutinize the commentary in the bank’s one-page statement for clues about its thinking on the trajectory of the economy.

The bank’s statement also said while recent government policy measures on real estate have contributed to more sustainable outlooks for household debt, the rules have yet to have a substantial cooling effect on hot housing markets.

On core inflation, the bank noted that recent readings for its three measures, which reduce the influence of some more volatile consumer items like gasoline, have stayed below its ideal target of two per cent. That signals the entire economy has yet to catch up to the recent momentum.


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