Governor Macklem Affirms No Negative Interest Rates
First Formal Remarks By Tiff Macklem, Bank of Canada Governor
There were no surprises this morning from Governor Macklem’s virtual presentation to the Canadian Clubs of Canada. His opening written statement was quite brief and it was followed up with a Q and A. Here are the key points that he emphasized.
Negative interest rates are off the table as they “lead to distortions in the behaviour of financial markets.”
Therefore, no additional Bank of Canada rate cuts is coming.
The BoC will continue its securities purchase program to provide liquidity to financial markets.
In response to questions, he said he expects lasting damage to demand and supply in the economy. He said the recovery will be “long and bumpy” and “slow and gradual”.
The inflation target of 2% will remain the beacon for BoC policy. Currently, inflation is below target.
“This recession is a deep one. Women have been particularly hard hit because they work disproportionately in the hard-hit service sector and women are disproportionately caring for children and the elderly”.
Fiscal support programs lay the foundation for the recovery of particular groups.
Oil-producing regions are hard hit by the oil price shock. The price of oil has moved up recently to WTI $40, but the pandemic clearly “weakens oil demand”.
Household debt levels are a concern. Fiscal transfers help and households have reduced their spending. The role of the BoC is to provide the required stimulus to encourage households to spend. The macroprudential measures already in place will discourage highly indebted households from taking on more debt.
He expects “pretty good growth in jobs and GDP in Q3”. Beyond that is more uncertain as we will need to repair the economy.
All institutions must speed up actions to deal with climate change, including the BoC. We will need to get a handle on the implications of this for the economy.
Chartered banks are more conservative in their lending practices since the pandemic hit. The securities-purchase programs are intended to keep credit flowing from the banks. The banks are an important shock absorber during this recession. Conditions in financial markets are much improved since the beginning of the crisis. “Markets have normalized and credit is flowing more freely”.
Both the government and the BoC have introduced extraordinary programs to deal with this crisis. He said, however, that we could use “additional international assistance and cooperation”.
Real estate question–How much risk does this sector represent? The Governor commented that different sectors will behave differently Warehouse and fulfillment centre demand is quite strong. Commercial real estate outlook is uncertain– particularly office space and shopping malls. Housing–he commented that “sharp drops in housing activity” has led to “little change in prices” thus far. This will vary by region and type of housing in the future.
“The pace of change is accelerating. Societies around the world are having trouble keeping up. The central bank must get ahead of this” and be prepared for the unknowns, be agile and resolute.
Asked about the potential for a second wave of a pandemic, he said, “The outlook is fraught with uncertainty. The biggest uncertainty is the course of the virus. There will be increases in the number of cases. We need testing and tracing with quick responses locally. We need to determine how to open up safely.”
When asked for his last word, he said, “We are going to get through this. Canadians are resourceful, business ingenuity is strong, this will be a long slow recovery and there will be setbacks. We have avoided the worst scenario. Not all jobs will come back. The Bank is laser-focused on supporting this recovery and getting Canadians back to work”.