Thursday, February 28, 2013

Recession or stability for Canada

Throughout the Global Financial Crisis, when the world economies slowed down, Canada held onto economic growth. This was due, in large part, to the approach taken by the Bank of Canada and the Government.

It has been a long, slow process for other countries to catch up. While we are starting to see signs of life in our largest trading partner, the U.S., other parts of the world, especially Europe continues to struggle.  Now, however, Canada is feeling the effects of the economic slowdown. It’s true that some sectors, in particular housing, as been impacted by the government rule changes to mortgages and home equity lines of credit. Other sectors such as manufacturing and exports for example, arefeeling the fallout from countries which normally bought goods deal with their own struggling economies

For an economy to function, money needs to keep moving. A quick look at the stats shows an economy growing at its slowest pace since pre-recession 2007. The use of consumer credit has dropped to levels not seen since the 1990s. The pace of retail sales is mediocre at best. Already, it has dropped 1.2 percentage points below the long-term average. Fewer people are accessing their lines of credit. Personal loans remain stable, however, largely due to the demand for auto loans.

We still hear about the rising debt-to-incomes ratios. Yet it is rising at the slowest pace we’ve seen in more than a decade. Interest payments on consumer debt are the lowest since 2009.

Consumers seem to have slowed their spending, for now. It could be the media’s emphasis on household debt, on gaps in retirement savings, on gaps on overall savings, or on the amount of credit card debt. It could be news of lost jobs,or maybe people are just tired of hearing the news.

Credit card growth is soft but maybe that’s a good thing. Insolvencies are falling, slowly, yet falling nonetheless. A sharp rise in the unemployment rate can lead to an increase in insolvencies but that’s not happening either. Yes, there have been job losses but employment increased by 1.6% or 286,000, all in full-time work, year-over-year in 2012.  Over the same period, the total number of hours worked rose 1.7%. In January, employment declined in Ontario and British Columbia. At the same time, there were increases in Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

In economics, a recession is a business cycle contraction, a general slowdown in economic activity. Economic indicators such as GDP, employment, investment spending, household income, business profits, and inflation fall, while bankruptcies and the unemployment rate rise. While we are living in a slow down, we are not seeing high job losses or increases in bankruptcies.

Economic stability refers to an economy that experiences constant growth and low inflation. Our inflation rate is the lowest it’s been in three years. And while the pace of economic growth has slowed, there is still growth.

Recession or stability? We believe stability.

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