Monday, July 23, 2012

Inflation, interest rates and 2014

The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

We’ve seen changes in mortgage rules and bank lending rules for lines of credit. We’ve seen interest rate wars among banks. The new Galaxy Android hit the market with a lot of hype. Tablets and half –tablets are getting talked up. RIM, makers of the ubiquitous Blackberry, has lost market share.  We can even pay for purchases using our Smartphones.

We get to pick the TV channels we want to watch – goodbye to bundling -- thanks to a new CRTC ruling. Life just keeps on moving forward no matter what’s happening to the economies in Canada, US and globally. 

Canada continues to reinvent itself within the context of gloomy global economies. The country remains a stable, conservative market. Canada’s annual inflation rate rose slightly to 1.5% in June, and most consumer prices remained stable. Increases in the price of passenger vehicles, electricity, food, and homeowners’ replacement costs were mostly responsible for June’s slightly higher rate, which was up three-tenths of a point from May according to Statistics Canada.

Even with the recent launch of an aggressive discounting program from auto dealers, it’s unlikely the inflation rate will come close to the 2% that Governor of the Bank of Canada (BoC) Mark Carney holds as the magic number – anything over that and Carney would consider raising interest rates.

Gasoline prices continued its downward trend in June. The overall price of consumer goods and services also fell. Food prices may change, though, since many areas of the country, as well as in the US have experienced severe drought, which may put pressure on prices.

With dismal global growth and no spectacular numbers coming out of the US, it’s safe to say, barring any major catastrophes, the inflation rate will remain low for some time despite record low interest rates designed to pump up spending. Consumers and business have hunkered down and have taken a wait and see attitude with regard to the economy, putting on hold any major purchases.

The new mortgage-lending rules are expected to help cool down the housing market and household debt growth from any moths to come.  On July 17, Carney kept the overnight rate at 1% for the 15th consecutive policy meeting dating back to September 2010.

The BoC also predicts some moderate growth and it has forecasted that the Canadian economy will strengthen by 2.5 per cent in 2014. But until then, we can expect a lackluster economy – not stagnant --but slow and steady.

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