Bank of Canada holds its policy interest rate steady, updates its outlook
Against the backdrop of a decelerating economy and growing calls for less restrictive monetary policy, the Bank of Canada made its final scheduled interest rate decision of the year today.
That decision – to keep its overnight policy interest rate at 5.00% – was broadly expected. What was not entirely expected (or welcome) was the Bank’s statement that it is “still concerned” about risks to the outlook for inflation and “remains prepared to raise” its policy rate “further” if needed.
The Bank’s observations are captured in the summary below.
Since August, we have been saying the VARIABLE RATE mortgage is the way to go, and this proves we were right on the money.
Mortgage Mark Herman, top Calgary Alberta and Victoria BC mortgage broker
Inflation facts and housing market commentary
- A slowdown in the Canadian economy is reducing inflationary pressures in a “broadening range” of goods and services prices
- Combined with a drop in gasoline prices, this contributed to easing of CPI inflation to 3.1% in October
- However, “shelter price inflation” picked up, reflecting faster growth in rent and other housing costs along with the continued contribution from elevated mortgage interest costs
- In recent months, the Bank’s preferred measures of core inflation have been around 3.5-4%, with the October data coming in towards the lower end of this range
- Wages are still rising by 4-5%
Canadian economic performance
- Economic growth “stalled through the middle quarters of 2023 with real GDP contracting at a rate of 1.1% in the third quarter, following growth of 1.4% in the second quarter
- Higher interest rates are clearly restraining spending: consumption growth in the last two quarters was close to zero, and business investment has been volatile but essentially flat over the past year
- Exports and inventory adjustment “subtracted” from GDP growth in the third quarter, while government spending and new home construction provided a boost
- The labour market continues to ease: job creation has been slower than labour force growth, job vacancies have declined further, and the unemployment rate has risen modestly
- Overall, these data and indicators for the fourth quarter suggest the economy is “no longer in excess demand”
Global economic performance and outlook
- The global economy continues to slow and inflation has eased further
- In the United States, growth has been stronger than expected, led by robust consumer spending, but is “likely to weaken in the months ahead” as past policy rate increases work their way through the economy
- Growth in the euro area has weakened and, combined with lower energy prices, has reduced inflationary pressures
- Oil prices are about $10-per-barrel lower than was assumed in the Bank’s October Monetary Policy Report
- Financial conditions have also eased, with long-term interest rates “unwinding” some of the sharp increases seen earlier in the autumn. The US dollar has weakened against most currencies, including Canada’s
Summary and Outlook
Despite (or in the Bank’s view because of) further signs that monetary policy is moderating spending and relieving price pressures, it decided to hold its policy rate at 5% and to continue to normalize its balance sheet.
The Bank also noted that it remains “concerned” about risks to the outlook for inflation and remains prepared to raise its policy rate further if needed. The Bank’s Governing Council also indicated it wants to see further and sustained easing in core inflation, and continues to focus on the balance between demand and supply in the economy, inflation expectations, wage growth, and “corporate pricing behaviour.”
Once again, the Bank repeated its mantra that it “remains resolute in its commitment to restoring price stability for Canadians.” As a result, we will have to wait until next year for any sign of rate relief.
The Bank’s next interest rate announcement lands on January 24, 2024.
In the meantime, please feel free to call me and discuss financing options that will empower you in this economic cycle, and the ones ahead.
Finally some good news for buyers.
Buy soon before everyone that did not buy sees this data and tries to by tool
Mortgage Mark Herman – top, best Calgary mortgage broker
Last week, the Bank of Canada held its policy rate at 5%. The decision was expected given slowing in the economy and modest improvement to core inflation measures.
The Bank is likely at the end of its tightening cycle. How soon it eases rates – and how low will rates go in the near to medium term – is the question #1
ANSWER: The general view from market economists is that we could see some easing of the overnight rate by mid-2024.
Question #2: How low. how far will Prime come down?
ANSWER: Prime is expected to come down a total of 2%.
DETAILS of Prime Cuts
- Prime is 7.2% now / November 2nd, 2023,
- Prime is expected to get down to to 5.2% or a bit lower, like 4.75% – 5.25% range by the end 2025; which looks like this:
- June/ July 2024, 1st Prime cuts = 6 months
- Prime reduction by o.25% every quarter = 1% less / year for the next 2 years = 24 months
- so these together = 30 months.
With Prime coming down, now is the time for you to take advantage of the Variable Rate reductions.
Variable Rates via brokers are at Prime – o.9%, while the Big-6 banks rates are Prime – o.15%.
YES, broker rates are 6x better than at the Big-6 lenders, o.9 – o.15 = o.75% better. It’s true!
Mortgage Mark Herman; Best Top Calgary Mortgage Broker for first time home buyers.
When might rates begin to fall?
The Bank’s latest Monetary Policy Report (MPR) also provides signals that we can monitor to gauge when rates could start declining.
When interest rates rise, one of the main ways monetary policy affects the economy is through reduced consumer spending on durable goods, like appliances, furniture and cars. Prices for durable goods, except for cars, have dropped from 5.4% to -0.4%, while prices for semi-durable goods, like food and clothing, have decreased from 4.3% to 2.1%. We’re still experiencing delays in delivering cars. As a result, manufacturers are concentrating on selling more expensive vehicles with higher margins and are offering fewer discounts from list prices.
Inflation in service prices, excluding shelter, has slowed from 5.1% to 1.5%. If bond rates begin to drop, we will see a gradual decline in mortgage costs. The challenge will be rental costs, which are soaring due to the very limited availability of rentals and the continuous influx of newcomers. Increasing housing supply is key to reducing rental prices. However, that is a problem that will take years to resolve given the significant shortage of housing.
Currently, the Bank is concerned about inflation expectations, corporate pricing behaviour, and wage growth. As noted in its Monetary Policy Report, “As excess demand eases, inflation is expected to slow. At the same time, inflation expectations should also fall, businesses’ pricing behaviour should normalize, and wage growth should moderate. So far, progress has occurred but somewhat more slowly than anticipated.”
The Bank will be careful to ensure that inflation expectations inconsistent with its 2% target are not embedded in corporate pricing and wage expectations. A slowing economy should help to lower those expectations.
The general view from market economists is that we could see some easing of the overnight rate by mid-2024.
NERD STUFF: Maintaining a restrictive rate policy
The Bank can maintain a restrictive policy even without increasing rates any further, simply by keeping rates at their current level. With the overnight rate at 5% and an inflation rate of 3.8%, the real policy rate is 1.2%. This rate is restrictive, since it is higher than the neutral real rate of interest, which the Bank estimates to be between 0 and 1%.
The neutral real rate of interest is the level of interest that neither stimulates nor restrains economic growth. In other words, it is the rate at which the economy is in balance, with stable prices and full employment. Therefore, when the real rate of interest is restrictive, we would expect GDP to slow.
In its recent Monetary Policy Report (MPR), the Bank is forecasting economic growth to average less than 1% over the next few quarters, while potential output growth is expected to average 2%, mainly due to population growth and increased labor productivity. This should lead to a negative output gap (low demand and a surplus of products) and lower inflation.
Bank of Canada holds its interest rate steady, publishes updated economic forecasts
UGH! The BoC whacks borrowers again.
Mark Herman, Top Calgary Alberta Mortgage Broker
Yesterday, the Bank of Canada increased its overnight interest rate to 5.00% (+0.25% from June) because of the “accumulation of evidence” that excess demand and elevated core inflation are both proving more persistent and after taking into account its “revised outlook for economic activity and inflation.”
This decision was not unexpected by analysts but is disconcerting – as is the Bank’s pledge to continue its policy of quantitative tightening.
To understand today’s decision and the Bank’s current thinking on inflation, interest rates and the economy, we highlight its latest observations below:
Inflation facts and outlook
- In Canada, Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation eased to 3.4% in May, a “substantial and welcome drop from its peak of 8.1% last summer”
- While CPI inflation has come down largely as expected so far this year, the downward momentum has come more from lower energy prices, and less from an easing of “underlying inflation”
- With the large price increases of last year removed from the annual data, there will be less near-term “downward momentum” in CPI inflation
- Moreover, with three-month rates of core inflation running around 3.5% to 4% since last September, “underlying price pressures appear to be more persistent than anticipated”, an outcome that is reinforced by the Bank’s business surveys, which found businesses are “still increasing their prices more frequently than normal”
- Global inflation is easing, with lower energy prices and a decline in goods price inflation; however, robust demand and tight labour markets are causing persistent inflationary pressures in services
Canadian housing and economic performance
- Canada’s economy has been stronger than expected, with more momentum in demand
- Consumption growth was “surprisingly strong” at 5.8% in the first quarter
- While the Bank expects consumer spending to slow in response to the cumulative increase in interest rates, recent retail trade and other data suggest more persistent excess demand in the economy
- The housing market has seen some pickup
- New construction and real estate listings are lagging demand, which is adding pressure to prices
- In the labour market, there are signs of more availability of workers, but conditions remain tight, and wage growth has been around 4-5%
- Strong population growth from immigration is adding both demand and supply to the economy: newcomers are helping to ease the shortage of workers while also boosting consumer spending and adding to demand for housing
Global economic performance and outlook
- Economic growth has been stronger than expected, especially in the United States, where consumer and business spending has been “surprisingly” resilient
- After a surge in early 2023, China’s economic growth is softening, with slowing exports and ongoing weakness in its property sector
- Growth in the euro area is effectively stalled: while the service sector continues to grow, manufacturing is contracting
- Global financial conditions have tightened, with bond yields up in North America and Europe as major central banks signal further interest rate increases may be needed to combat inflation
- The Bank’s July Monetary Policy Report projects the global economy will grow by “around 2.8% this year and 2.4% in 2024, followed by 2.7% growth in 2025”
Summary and Outlook
As higher interest rates continue to work their way through the economy, the BoC expects economic growth to slow, averaging around 1% through the second half of 2023 and the first half of next year. This implies real GDP growth of 1.8% in 2023 and 1.2% in 2024. The Canadian economy will then move into “modest excess supply” early next year before growth picks up to 2.4% in 2025.
In its July Monetary Policy Report, the Bank noted that CPI inflation is forecast to “hover” around 3% for the next year before gradually declining to 2% in the middle of 2025. This is a slower return to target than was forecast in its January and April projections. As a result, the Bank’s Governing Council remains concerned that progress towards its 2% inflation target “could stall, jeopardizing the return to price stability.”
In terms of what Canadians can expect in the near term, the Bank had this to say: “Quantitative tightening is complementing the restrictive stance of monetary policy and normalizing the Bank’s balance sheet. Governing Council will continue to assess the dynamics of core inflation and the outlook for CPI inflation. In particular, we will be evaluating whether the evolution of excess demand, inflation expectations, wage growth and corporate pricing behaviour are consistent with achieving the 2% inflation target. The Bank remains resolute in its commitment to restoring price stability for Canadians.”
September 6th, 2023 is the Bank’s next scheduled policy rate announcement. Will there be 1x more increase?
Hot Economic growth leads the Bank of Canada to increase its benchmark interest rate
Today, the Bank of Canada increased its overnight interest rate to 4.75% (+0.25% from April) because of higher-than-expected growth in Canada’s economy in the first quarter and the view that monetary policy was not yet restrictive enough to bring inflation down to target.
Leading up to today’s announcement, many economists feared that the BoC would have no choice but to raise rates in the face of persistent inflation and recent GDP growth. Their fears were founded.
To understand the Bank’s thinking on this important topic, we highlight its latest observations below:
Inflation facts and outlook
- In Canada, Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation “ticked up in April” to 4.4%, the first increase in 10 months, with prices for a broad range of goods and services coming in higher than expected
- Goods price inflation increased, despite lower energy costs
- Services price inflation remained elevated, reflecting strong demand and a tight labour market
- The Bank continues to expect CPI inflation to ease to around 3% in the summer, as lower energy prices “feed through” and last year’s large price gains “fall out” of the yearly data
- However, with three-month measures of core inflation running in the 3.50%-4% range for several months and excess demand persisting, concerns have increased that CPI inflation could get stuck materially above the 2% target
Canadian housing and economic performance
- Canada’s economy was stronger than expected, with GDP growth of 3.1% in Q1 2023
- Consumption growth was “surprisingly strong and broad-based,” even after accounting for the boost from population gains
- Demand for services continued to rebound
- Spending on “interest-sensitive goods” increased and, more recently, “housing market activity has picked up”
- The labour market remains tight: higher immigration and participation rates are expanding the supply of workers but new workers have been quickly hired, reflecting continued strong demand for labour
- Overall, excess demand in the economy looks to be “more persistent” than anticipated
Global economic performance and outlook
- Globally, consumer price inflation is coming down, largely reflecting lower energy prices compared to a year ago, but underlying inflation remains stubbornly high
- While economic growth around the world is softening in the face of higher interest rates, major central banks are signalling that interest rates may have to rise further to restore price stability
- In the United States, the economy is slowing, although consumer spending remains surprisingly resilient and the labour market is still tight
- Economic growth has essentially stalled in Europe but upward pressure on core prices is persisting
- Growth in China is expected to slow after surging in the first quarter
- Financial conditions have tightened back to those seen before the bank failures in the United States and Switzerland
Summary and Outlook
The BoC said that based on the “accumulation of evidence,” its Governing Council decided to increase its policy interest rate, “reflecting our view that monetary policy was not sufficiently restrictive to bring supply and demand back into balance and return inflation sustainably to the 2% target.”
The Bank says quantitative tightening is complementing the restrictive stance of monetary policy and normalizing the Bank’s balance sheet.
Going forward, the Bank said it will continue to assess the dynamics of core inflation and the outlook for CPI inflation with particular focus on “ evaluating whether the evolution of excess demand, inflation expectations, wage growth and corporate pricing behaviour are consistent with achieving” its inflation target.
Once again, the Bank repeated its mantra that it “remains resolute in its commitment to restoring price stability for Canadians.”
With today’s announcement now behind us, a new round of speculation will begin in advance of the Bank’s next policy announcement on July 12th.
Odds of New Rates
Market odds now have a July 12 hike at a 61% probability, with potentially another increase by December.
Just 1 more Prime Rate increase would take the benchmark prime rate from 6.95% at the end of today to a nosebleed 7.20% (last seen in February 2001).
There may well be another Prime Rate increase on July. We have strategies to beat these rates so please call and we can sort out a situation that works for you.
Today, April 12, 2023, the Bank of Canada held its policy interest rate at 4.50%, a welcome outcome for borrowers after almost a year of constant increases, and a timely confidence-builder for the real estate industry as it enters the spring market.
The Bank also issued its latest Monetary Report with updated risk assessments and base-case projections for inflation.
We highlight the Bank’s latest observations below.
Inflation acts and outlook
- In Canada, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation eased to 5.2% in February, and the Bank’s preferred measures of core inflation were just under 5%
- The Bank expects Canadian CPI inflation to “fall quickly” to around 3% in the middle of 2023 and then decline more gradually to the 2% target by the end of 2024
- Recent data is reinforcing Governing Council’s “confidence” that inflation will continue to decline in the next few months
- Similarly, in many countries, inflation is easing in the face of lower energy prices, normalizing global supply chains, and tighter monetary policy
- At the same time, labour markets remain “tight” and measures of core inflation in many advanced economies suggest persistent price pressures, especially for services
Canadian economic performance and outlook
- Domestic demand is still exceeding supply and the labour market remains tight
- Economic growth in the first quarter looks to be stronger than was projected in January, on a “bounce” in exports and solid consumption growth
- While the Bank’s Business Outlook Survey suggests acute labour shortages are starting to ease, wage growth remains elevated relative to productivity growth
- Strong population gains are adding to labour supply and supporting employment growth while also boosting aggregate consumption
- Softening foreign demand is expected to restrain exports and business investment
- Overall, GDP growth is projected to be weak through the remainder of this year before strengthening gradually next year, implying the Canadian economy will move into excess supply in the second half of this year
- The Bank now projects Canada’s economy will grow by 1.4% this year – an improvement over its last forecast of 1% growth – 1.3% in 2024 (a downgrade from its last forecast of 2% for 2024) and then pick up to 2.5% in 2025
Canadian housing market
- Housing market activity remains subdued
- As more households renew their mortgages at higher rates and restrictive monetary policy works its way through the economy more broadly, consumption is expected to moderate this year
Global economic performance and outlook
- The Bank’s April Monetary Policy Report projects global growth of 2.6% in 2023 – an improvement over its last forecast of 2% offered in January – and then fall to 2.1% in 2024 (lower than it last forecast of 2.5%), and rise to 2.8% in 2025
- Recent global economic growth has been stronger than anticipated with performance in the United States and Europe surprising on the upside
- However, growth in those regions is expected to weaken as tighter monetary policy continues to feed through those economies
- In particular, US growth is expected to “slow considerably” in the coming months, with particular weakness in sectors that are important for Canadian exports
- Activity in China’s economy has rebounded, particularly in services
- Overall, commodity prices are close to their January levels
While holding the line on interest rates, the Bank also noted in today’s announcement that it is continuing its policy of quantitative tightening and remains “resolute in its commitment to restoring price stability for Canadians.” There was nothing new in that statement. However, it also posited that getting inflation the rest of the way back to 2% “could prove to be more difficult because inflation expectations are coming down slowly, service price inflation and wage growth remain elevated, and corporate pricing behaviour has yet to normalize.”
As it sets monetary policy going forward, the Bank’s Governing Council indicated that it will be “particularly focused” on these indicators, and the evolution of core inflation as it gauges the progress of returning CPI inflation back to its 2% target.
The Bank also said it continues to assess whether monetary policy is “sufficiently restrictive” to relieve price pressures and “remains prepared to raise the policy rate further if needed” to return inflation to its 2% target.
Next Announcement is …
We will have to wait until April 20th to get the next CPI reading to gauge progress in one of the Bank’s determining indicators and June 7th for the Bank’s next scheduled policy interest rate announcement.
Inflation is slowing and that is great news for Canadian home buyers
Mortgage Mark Herman, Top Calgary Alberta Mortgage Broker
Using Return-To-Work Income while on Maternity Leave to buy a home IS possible in Canada.
Are you on maternity leave and trying to buy a home, but the bank will not use your income? This is a common reason home buyers find us on the internet or their realtors send them to us.
We CAN use your FULL RETURN TO WORK SALARY as qualifying income, if you have a “return to work date” that is less than 12 months away from your home purchase possession date.
Big-6 banks do not do this and we have no idea why. It frustrates everyone, and broker lenders have no issue with it.
Mortgage Mark Herman, Top-Best Calgary mortgage broker near me.
And while we are it – our lenders also use CCB – Canadian Child tax Benefit – for all children aged UNDER 16, when the mortgage starts.
Big-6 banks don’t use this … not sure why that is.
What else about Broker Lenders?
Broker lenders are all secure, and many are publicly traded, and all are audited by the same staff the investigate all of the Big-6 banks.
Broker lenders also have payout penalties that are 500% to 800% LESS than the way Big-6 banks do it. Here are the links for that specific data on my blog:
- General explanation: https://markherman.ca/payout-penalties-how-the-big-5-banks-get-you/
- Details of all the lenders and their specific math: https://markherman.ca/fixed-rate-mortgage-penalties-larger-than-ever/
Broker lenders ALWAYS renew you are best rates, while Big-6 banks know that 86% of mortgages that renew will take the 1st offer so they “bump the rate” on you. Then you have to call in/ go in to chisel them down.
- At broker lenders, they expect you to call us to check the rates and we would jump at the chance to move you to a different lender and get paid again … so you get best rates with broker banks.
There is lots more to … call to find out.
Mortgage Mark Herman, licensed in Alberta since 2004.
Today, the Bank of Canada increased its overnight benchmark interest rate 25 basis point to 4.50% from 4.25% in December. This is the eighth time since March 2022 that the Bank has tightened money supply to address inflation.
While the headline increase will certainly make news, it is the Bank’s accompanying commentary on its future moves that will capture the most attention. We summarize the Bank’s observations below, including its forward-looking comments on the potential for future rate increases.
- Inflation has declined from 8.1% in June to 6.3% in December, reflecting lower gasoline prices and, more recently, moderating prices for durable goods
- Despite this progress, Canadians are still “feeling the hardship” of high inflation in their essential household expenses, with persistent price increases for food and shelter
- Short-term inflation expectations remain elevated and while year-over-year measures of core inflation are still around 5%, 3-month measures have come down, suggesting that core inflation has “peaked”
Canadian economic and housing market performance
- The Bank estimates Canada’s economy grew by 3.6% in 2022, slightly stronger than was projected in the Bank’s Monetary Policy Report in October, however it projects that growth is expected to “stall through the middle of 2023,” picking up later in the year
- Canadian GDP growth of about 1% is forecast for 2023 and rising to about 2% in 2024, little changed from the Bank’s October outlook
- The economy remains in “excess demand” and the labour market remains “tight” with unemployment near historic lows and businesses reporting ongoing difficulty finding workers
- However, there is “growing evidence” that restrictive monetary policy is slowing activity especially household spending
- Consumption growth has moderated from the first half of 2022 and “housing market activity has declined substantially”
- As the effects of interest rate increases continue to work through the economy, spending on consumer services and business investment is expected to slow
- Weaker foreign demand will likely weigh on Canadian exports
- This overall slowdown in activity will allow supply to “catch up” with demand
Global economic performance and outlook
- The Bank estimates the global economy grew by about 3.5% in 2022, and will slow to about 2% in 2023 and 2.50% in 2024 — a projection that is slightly higher than the Bank’s forecast in October
- Global economic growth is slowing, although it is proving more resilient than was expected at the time of the Bank’s October Monetary Policy Report
- Global inflation remains high and broad-based although inflation is coming down in many countries, largely reflecting lower energy prices as well as improvements in global supply chains
- In the United States and Europe, economies are slowing but proving more resilient than was expected at the time of the Bank’s October Monetary Policy Report
- China’s abrupt lifting of pandemic restrictions has prompted an upward revision to the Bank’s growth forecast for China and “poses an upside risk to commodity prices”
- Russia’s war on Ukraine remains a significant source of uncertainty
- Financial conditions remain restrictive but have eased since October, and the Canadian dollar has been relatively stable against the US dollar
Taking all of these factors into account, the Bank decided today’s policy rate increase was necessary and justified.
However, the Bank also offered this important piece of news: “If economic developments evolve broadly in line with (its) outlook, Governing Council expects to hold the policy rate at its current level while it assesses the impact of the cumulative interest rate increases.”
That sounds positive, but as is customary, the Bank also noted that it is prepared to increase the policy rate further if needed to return inflation to its 2% target. It also added the usual language that it “remains resolute in its commitment to restoring price stability for Canadians.”
Although the Bank did not say it, the bottom line is Canadians will have to wait and see what comes next.
Next touch point
March 8, 2023 is the Bank’s next scheduled policy interest rate announcement and we will be on hand to provide an executive summary the same day.
This is from the Desk of Dr. Cooper, our Economist, and this data is 1 of the reason we are at Dominion Lending – to get this data.
Below is the details of the government expanding the STRESS TEST, or other mechanisms, to make it harder to buy a home.
OSFI Is Concerned About Federally Insured Lender Exposure to Mortgage Risk.
Late last week, the Office of the Superintendent for Financial Institutions (OSFI) announced it was concerned about the risks associated with the large and rising number of highly indebted borrowers, especially those with floating-rate mortgages, which stands at a record proportion of outstanding mortgage loans.
With the economy in danger of entering a recession and the Bank of Canada warning of potentially more rate hikes to counter persistent inflation, the housing market may face continued pressure in the coming months.
A record number of buyers used floating-rate debt for purchases during Canada’s pandemic-era real estate boom. Those borrowers may come under increasing strain if mortgage costs remain high. Job losses from an economic slowdown also would make it harder for people to keep up with loan payments and stay in their homes.
Superintendent of Financial Institutions Peter Routledge said a review of the country’s mortgage-underwriting rules that starts later this week would look beyond its current main measure — a stress test requiring borrowers to qualify for higher interest rates than what their banks are offering.
“The question in our minds is, is it sufficient?” Routledge said of the current stress test. “So we will look at a broader range of debt-serviceability tools, including debt-to-income constraints, debt-service constraints, as well as the current interest-rate stress test tool.”
The proposed rules—subject to public consultation—include loan-to-income and debt-to-income restrictions, new interest rate affordability stress tests and debt-service coverage restrictions.
Highly Indebted Borrowers
OSFI is particularly concerned about the rise in mortgage originations to households with a loan-to-income ratio of 450% or more, which the Bank of Canada has long asserted is the sector most at risk of delinquency and default. This risk has repeatedly been highlighted in the Bank’s financial risk analysis–the Governing Council’s Financial System Review. The latest report says, “Those with high debt are more vulnerable to a decline in income and will face more financial strain when they renew their mortgages at higher rates.”
This vulnerability relates to households’ ability to continue servicing their debt if incomes decline or interest rates rise without significantly reducing their consumption. The Bank staff estimate that the most highly indebted households have generally seen the smallest increases in liquid assets. At the same time, alongside higher house prices, many households have taken out sizable mortgages to purchase a house, adding to the already large share of highly indebted households.
The chart below shows that the average share of high loan-to-income borrowers before the pandemic was 23.8%. The average since the pandemic onset has risen to 33.7%.
Proposals for Comment
To date, mortgage delinquency rates at federally regulated financial institutions (FRFIs) are at a record low. The large FRFIs have worked closely with borrowers who have reached their trigger points. TD, CIBC, and BMO have allowed some negative amortizations until renewal. As a result, the proportion of their mortgages having remaining amortizations has risen sharply (see second chart below). Questions remain regarding how they will deal with this at renewal time. Will the new mortgage be amortized at 25 years at renewal, raising the monthly payments dramatically and increasing the risk of delinquency or default, especially among highly indebted households?
Earlier last week, CEOs of the Big 5 banks weighed in on vulnerable mortgage clients. None were quite as forthcoming as Scotiabank’s new President and CEO, Scott Thomson, who said the bank has about 20,000 borrowers that it considers “vulnerable.” These are borrowers with a high loan-to-value (LTV) mortgage, a low credit score, lower deposits in their checking accounts and those with home valuations that are susceptible to market conditions.
“So, as you think about the tail risk, we have about 20,000 vulnerable customers, which would be 2.5% [of the total portfolio],” he said Monday during the RBC Capital Markets Canadian Bank CEO Conference.
However, he added this represents a “manageable-type situation for us on mortgages.” Scotiabank’s floating-rate mortgages are not fixed payment. They adjust monthly payments every time the central bank changes the overnight rate.
According to Steve Huebl at Canadian Mortgage Trends, RBC President and CEO Dave McKay said that his bank is “keeping a watchful eye on its mortgage clients, turning to AI and various types of modelling to forecast clients’ cash flow.”
“We look at incomes, we look at the stress of inflation on expenses in a household, and we monitor cash flow to interest payments, as you would in any corporation,” McKay said during the conference. “We do that [for] every single consumer in our portfolio because over 80% of our clients have their core checking and core cash management with us.”
Looking at the bank’s variable-rate mortgage portfolio, which totals between $100 and $120 billion, McKay said the bank has been able to segment that group of clients, keeping tabs on when they reach their trigger rates and when they’ll be coming up for rate resets in the next several years.
Through modelling, the bank can then predict which clients with upcoming renewals “will or will not have a cash flow challenge” should the economy enter a moderate or severe recession, he said. “We have a pretty clear view of that.”
For clients who have difficulties making their payments, mortgage lenders have several options to try and assist borrowers before the situation progresses to the point of them needing to sell their homes.
“You have skip-a-payment deferrals, you have maturity extensions, whatever it happens to be, you have a lot of ways to work with that client,” McKay said.
In terms of clients with cash flow challenges in addition to a collateral problem, where the property sale wouldn’t cover their mortgage and could result in default, McKay said it’s a much smaller group but one the bank is actively monitoring.
“That bucket, I can tell you, is in the low single-digit percentages of our portfolio,” he said. “And that’s the bucket we’re managing”.
To the extent these measures are implemented, further pressure on mortgage growth is likely. Mortgage brokers can access lenders not impacted by OSFI B-20 rule changes. More than ever, brokers could add value to borrowers turned away from the banks. In these uncertain times, existing and new clients need advice from a trained and caring professional.