Home Price Decline Accelerated in June

Dr. Sherry Cooper Brent Shepheard 15 Jul

This is the latest post from Dominion Lending Centres, Chief Economist, Dr. Sherry Cooper

HOUSE PRICE DECLINE ACCELERATED IN JUNE

Statistics released today by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) show that the slowdown that began in March in response to higher interest rates has broadened. Home sales recorded over Canadian MLS® Systems fell by 5.6% between May and June 2022, taking second-quarter sales down sharply (see chart below). The actual (not seasonally adjusted) number of transactions in June 2022 came in 23.9% below the record for that month set last year and is below its 10-year monthly moving average.

“Sales activity continues to slow in the face of rising interest rates and uncertainty,” said Jill Oudil, Chair of CREA. “The cost of borrowing has overtaken supply as the dominant factor affecting housing markets at the moment, but the supply issue has not gone away.”

The Bank of Canada’s shocking 100 basis point hike in the benchmark policy rate will accelerate the slowdown in the coming months.

“One important feature of the market right now that isn’t getting enough attention is the difference in mortgage qualification criteria between fixed and variable, because while variable rates adjust in real-time, fixed rates have already priced in most of what the Bank of Canada is expected to do over the balance of 2022,” said Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s Senior Economist. “As such, it’s no surprise to see people piling into variable rate mortgages at record levels, but probably not for the reasons they may have chosen them in the past. It’s because the 200 basis points plus the contract rate element of the stress test has, just since April, become much more difficult to pass if you want a fixed-rate mortgage. A strict stress test made sense when rates were at a record-low, but policymakers may want to assess if it continues to meet its policy objectives now that fixed mortgage rates are back at more normal levels.”

NEW LISTINGS 

The number of newly listed homes climbed 4.1% month-over-month in June. The monthly increase was most influenced by a jump in new supply in Montreal, while new listings in the GTA and Greater Vancouver posted slight declines.

With sales down and new listings up in June, the sales-to-new listings ratio eased back to 51.7% – its lowest level since January 2015. It was also below the long-term average for the national sales-to-new listings ratio of 55.1%. Almost three-quarters of local markets were balanced markets based on the sales-to-new listings ratio being between one standard deviation above or below the long-term average in June 2022.
There were 3.1 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of June 2022, still historically low but slowly increasing from the tightest conditions recorded just six months ago. The long-term average for this measure is more than five months.

HOME PRICES

The Aggregate Composite MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) edged down 1.9% on a month-over-month basis in June 2022.

Regionally, most of the monthly declines were seen in markets in Ontario. Home prices have also eased in parts of British Columbia, although the B.C. provincial totals have been propped up by mostly static prices in Greater Vancouver.

Prices continue to be more or less flat across the Prairies while only just now showing small signs of declines in Quebec.

On the East Coast, prices are mostly continuing to rise but appear to have stalled in Halifax-Dartmouth.

The non-seasonally adjusted Aggregate Composite MLS® HPI was still up by 14.9% on a year-over-year basis in June, although this was just half the near 30% record year-over-year increases logged in January and February (see chart and tables below for details by region)

BOTTOM LINE

In many respects, today’s housing data trends are already outdated. It changed with the blockbuster rate hike a couple of days ago. Excess housing demand is essentially over, and we are heading into a more fragile period for resale volumes and prices. The national sales-to-new listings ratio fell to 51.7% in June, which is considered balanced, but it’s the lowest ratio since 2015 and is headed in a softer direction. Buyers’ markets are already evident, especially in some of the suburbs/exurbs in Ontario and parts of BC. These are the regions that posted extreme price gains last year. Others, such as cities in oil-rich Alberta and Atlantic Canada, are still holding in well.

With the Bank of Canada’s most recent tightening, qualifying rates are ratcheting up for both variable and fixed mortgage rates. Before the one percentage point rate hike, variable rate loans were qualifying at 5.25%, but now that has shifted to around 6%. Fixed-rate borrowers are qualifying at about 7%. The Canadian prime rate has surged this year, increasing variable mortgage rates by roughly 300 basis points. Robert Kavcic at BMO has calculated that “going from 1.5% to 4.5% on the same loan value would crank up the monthly variable-rate mortgage payment by almost 40%, making the current episode an even more abrupt shift than the late-1980s  after adjusting for income levels.”

Kavcic continues, “the vast majority of borrowers currently on variable-rate mortgages have fixed payment features, but even there, things are now getting dicey. For example, moving a variable rate up from 1.5% to 4% with a fixed payment would effectively increase the amortization from 25 years to 45 years. Another 50 basis-point rate hike in September would take that above 60 years—that is, many will reach the point where payments are no longer taking down the principal. Each mortgage will have its unique terms when payments start to move higher, but for those that caught the low in variable rates, we’ll probably be there soon. Of course, HELOC payments used to finance many multiple-property purchases are ratcheting up in real-time.”

There is also the risk that the federal financial institutions’ regulator, OSFI, will intervene to protect the big Chartered Banks from taking on too much risk rather than making it easier for borrowers to qualify or to carry variable-rate loans in this environment.

Moreover, mortgage renewals pose a problem as well. Fixed mortgage rates five years ago were roughly 3%. Resetting the mortgage at 4.5% will lead to a monthly payment increase of approximately 15%, all else equal.

With the latest move by the Bank of Canada, more potential buyers will believe that home prices are likely to fall, taking the FOMO factor out of the housing market. This removes the critical ingredient that drove prices up rapidly since the pandemic began.

If you have any questions, contact Brent today or book a call-back time here.

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Canadian Inflation Spikes to 6.7% in March

Dr. Sherry Cooper Brent Shepheard 20 Apr

This is the latest update from Dominion Lending Centres Cheif Economist, Dr. Sherry Cooper

Holy Smokes! Canadian Inflation Is At 6.7%

 

StatsCanada today reported that consumer prices rose a whopping 6.7% year-over-year in March, a full percentage point above the 5.7% reading the month before. Market-driven interest rates shot up on the news as the prospects increase for another half-point rise in the overnight rate when the Bank of Canada meets again on June 1.There is no sugar-coating this. Bonds were walloped as the Government of Canada’s two-year yield shot up to 2.6%, the 5-year yield rose to 2.75%, and the 10-year yield spiked above 2.825% immediately following the data release. The 5-year yield–so crucial for setting the 5-year fixed mortgage rate–has nearly quadrupled over the past year.

 

Where Is The Inflation Coming From?

 

Inflationary pressure remained widespread in March, as prices rose across all eight major components. Prices increased against the backdrop of sustained price pressure in Canadian housing markets, substantial supply constraints and geopolitical conflict, which has affected energy, commodity, and agriculture markets. Further, employment continued to strengthen in March, as the unemployment rate fell to a record low. In March, average hourly wages for employees rose 3.4% y/y, raising the risk of wage-price spiraling.

Excluding gasoline, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 5.5% year over year in March, the fastest pace since introducing the all-items excluding gasoline special aggregate in 1999, following a 4.7% gain in February.

The CPI rose 1.4% in March, following a 1.0% gain in February on a monthly basis. This was the largest increase since January 1991, when the goods and services tax was introduced. On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, the CPI rose 0.9% in March, matching the most significant increase on record.

In March, gasoline prices rose 11.8% month over month, following a 6.9% increase in February. Global oil prices rose sharply in March because of supply uncertainty following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Higher crude oil prices pushed prices at the pump higher. Year over year, consumers paid 39.8% more for gasoline in March.

Month over month, prices for fuel oil and other fuels rose 19.9%, the second-largest increase on record after February 2000. On a year-over-year basis, prices for fuel oil and other fuels rose 61.0% in March.

Food prices continued to surge, as did the prices of durable goods such as automobiles and furniture. It cost considerably more for restaurants, hotel rooms, and flights.

Goods inflation hit 9.2% in March, the highest since 1982. Services inflation rose to 4.3%, the highest since 2003.

Bottom Line

Bond markets sold off all over the world today. The yield curves flattened as shorter-term yields rose more than their longer-dated counterparts.  This is reflective of the view that central banks will accelerate their tightening.

Today’s CPI report shows inflation pressures were more elevated than the Bank of Canada expected just last week when they hiked the policy rate by 50 basis points.

This could well mark the top of the surge in inflation, but the return to the 2% inflation target could be prolonged, particularly if inflation expectations become embedded. For this reason, Governor Macklem is likely to tighten aggressively once again on June 1, which will further dampen housing activity

If you have any questions, contact Brent today or book a call-back time here.

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Bank of Canada Hikes Rates by 50 BPs, Signaling More To Come

Dr. Sherry Cooper Brent Shepheard 13 Apr

This is the latest post from Dominion Lending Centres‘ Chief Economist, Dr. Sherry Cooper

The Governing Council of the Bank of Canada raised the overnight policy rate by a full 50 basis points for the first time in 22 years. This was a widely telegraphed action that will be followed by the US Federal Reserve next month. While the BoC was the first G-7 central bank to take such aggressive action, the Bank of New Zealand also hiked rates today by half a percentage point. Considering the surge in inflation and the strength of the Canadian economy, another jumbo rate hike may well be in the cards.

The Bank now realizes that inflation is coming, not just from supply disruptions but also from excessive demand.

“In Canada, Growth is strong, and the economy is moving into excess demand. Labour markets are tight, and wage growth is back to its pre-pandemic pace and rising. Businesses increasingly report they are having difficulty meeting demand, and are able to pass on higher input costs by increasing prices.”

The Bank now says that

“Growth looks to have been stronger in the first quarter than projected in January and is likely to pick up in the second quarter. Consumer spending is strengthening with the lifting of pandemic containment measures. Exports and business investment will continue to recover, supported by strong foreign demand and high commodity prices. Housing market activity, which has been exceptionally high, is expected to moderate.”

The Governing Council has, once again, revised up its inflation forecast. CPI inflation is now expected to average almost 6% in the first half of 2022 and remain well above the control range throughout this year. It is then expected to ease to about 2½% in the second half of 2023 and return to the 2% target in 2024. There is an increasing risk that expectations of elevated inflation could become entrenched.

With the economy moving into excess demand and inflation persisting well above target, the Governing Council judges that interest rates will need to rise further. The Bank is also ending reinvestment and will begin quantitative tightening (QT), effective April 25. Maturing Government of Canada bonds on the Bank’s balance sheet will no longer be replaced, and, as a result, the balance sheet size will decline over time. This will put further upward pressure on interest rates further out the yield curve.

Bottom Line

Traders are betting that the overnight rate will approach 3.0% one year from today. In today’s Monetary Policy Report (MPR), the Bank revised upward its estimate of the neutral overnight rate to a range of 2.0% to 3.0%–up 25 bps from their estimate one year ago. This is the Bank’s estimate of the overnight rate that is consistent with the noninflationary potential growth rate of the economy.

The rise in interest rates has already shown signs of slowing the Canadian housing market. The MPR states that

“Resales are expected to soften somewhat in the second quarter as borrowing rates rise. Low levels of both builders’ inventories and existing homes for sale should support new construction and renovations in the near term.”

Bond yields have risen in anticipation of the Bank of Canada’s move to take the five-year fixed mortgage rate up to between 3.5% and 4%. This could be a pivotal time, as mortgage borrowers must qualify for loans at the maximum of 5.25% or 2 percentage points above the offered contract rate. We are now beyond the  2 ppts threshold, which reduces the buying power of many.

If you have any questions, contact Brent today or book a call-back time here.

Interest Rates Rise

Canadian CPI Inflation Rises to 5.7%

Dr. Sherry Cooper Brent Shepheard 17 Mar

This is the latest blog post from DLC Chief Economist, Dr. Sherry Cooper.

Inflation Pressures Accelerating

StatsCanada today reported that Canadian inflation rose 5.7% year-over-year in February, up again from the prior month’s 5.1% rise. This was the largest gain since August 1991 (+6.0%).

This was no surprise, as the Ukraine War has stepped up inflation pressure worldwide. The US CPI rose a whopping 7.9% last month (see chart below).Price increases were broad-based in February, pinching the pocketbooks of Canadians. Consumers paid higher prices for gasoline and groceries in February 2022 compared with the same month a year earlier. Shelter costs continued to trend higher, rising at the fastest year-over-year pace since August 1983.

Excluding gasoline, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 4.7% year over year in February, surpassing the gain in January (+4.3%) when the index increased at the fastest pace since its introduction in 1999.

On a monthly basis, the CPI rose 1.0% in February, the most significant increase since February 2013, following a 0.9% increase in January. On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, the CPI rose 0.6%.

Gasoline Prices Surge Amid Geopolitical Conflict
Canadian motorists paid 32.3% more at the pump compared with February 2021.

Monthly gasoline prices increased 6.9% amid geopolitical conflict in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.   Uncertainty surrounding the global oil supply put upward pressure on prices.

Similarly, prices for fuel oil and other fuels increased 8.5% month-over-month following higher international energy prices.

Grocery Prices Shot Up Again
Prices for food purchased from stores (+7.4%) rose faster in February than in January (+6.5%). This is the most significant yearly increase since May 2009. Higher input prices and heightened transportation costs continued to contribute to inflationary pressure in February.

Price growth for meat (+11.7%), including fresh or frozen beef (+16.8%) and chicken (+10.4%), was higher year over year in February than in January (+10.1%).

Shelter Costs Rise At Fastest Pace Since 1983
In February, shelter costs rose 6.6% year over year, the fastest pace since August 1983. Higher costs for both owned accommodation (+6.2%) and rented accommodation (+4.2%) increased.

Homeowners’ replacement cost (+13.2%), which is related to the price of new homes, and other owned accommodation expenses (+14.3%), which includes commissions on the sale of real estate, remained elevated year over year. In contrast, mortgage interest cost (-6.0%) moderated the shelter index on a year-over-year basis.

According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, improved economic and demographic conditions over the past year, including youth employment recovery and resumption of international migration to Canada, supported rental demand. This, in part, contributed to higher rent (+4.2%) prices year over year in February.

Bottom Line

Canadian Inflation has exceeded the Bank of Canada’s 1%-to-3% target band for 11 consecutive months. Other central banks have already begun to hike overnight rates from their effective lower bound introduced in March 2020.

Today, the U.S. Federal Reserve hiked the overnight policy target for the first time since 2018 by 25 basis points and signaled that it expects to hike rates six times more this year.

The global geopolitical tensions and rising risk of a drawn-out conflict exacerbate inflation and supply bottlenecks, delaying a return to sub-3% inflation.

If you have any questions about this post or mortgages in general, please contact me here.