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Bank of Canada maintains policy rate, continues quantitative tightening

January 24, 2024 | Posted by: Donna Alamolhoda

The Bank of Canada today held its target for the overnight rate at 5%, with the Bank Rate at 5.25% and the deposit rate at 5%. The Bank is continuing its policy of quantitative tightening.

Global economic growth continues to slow, with inflation easing gradually across most economies. While growth in the United States has been stronger than expected, it is anticipated to slow in 2024, with weakening consumer spending and business investment. In the euro area, the economy looks to be in a mild contraction. In China, low consumer confidence and policy uncertainty will likely restrain activity. Meanwhile, oil prices are about $10 per barrel lower than was assumed in the October Monetary Policy Report (MPR). Financial conditions have eased, largely reversing the tightening that occurred last autumn.

The Bank now forecasts global GDP growth of 2.5% in 2024 and 2.75% in 2025, following 2023's 3% pace. With softer growth this year, inflation rates in most advanced economies are expected to come down slowly, reaching central bank targets in 2025.

In Canada, the economy has stalled since the middle of 2023 and growth will likely remain close to zero through the first quarter of 2024. Consumers have pulled back their spending in response to higher prices and interest rates, and business investment has contracted. With weak growth, supply has caught up with demand and the economy now looks to be operating in modest excess supply. Labour market conditions have eased, with job vacancies returning to near pre-pandemic levels and new jobs being created at a slower rate than population growth. However, wages are still rising around 4% to 5%.

Economic growth is expected to strengthen gradually around the middle of 2024. In the second half of 2024, household spending will likely pick up and exports and business investment should get a boost from recovering foreign demand. Spending by governments contributes materially to growth through the year. Overall, the Bank forecasts GDP growth of 0.8% in 2024 and 2.4% in 2025, roughly unchanged from its October projection.

CPI inflation ended the year at 3.4%. Shelter costs remain the biggest contributor to above-target inflation. The Bank expects inflation to remain close to 3% during the first half of this year before gradually easing, returning to the 2% target in 2025. While the slowdown in demand is reducing price pressures in a broader number of CPI components and corporate pricing behaviour continues to normalize, core measures of inflation are not showing sustained declines.

Given the outlook, Governing Council decided to hold the policy rate at 5% and to continue to normalize the Bank's balance sheet. The Council is still concerned about risks to the outlook for inflation, particularly the persistence in underlying inflation. Governing Council 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. The Bank remains resolute in its commitment to restoring price stability for Canadians.

Information note

The next scheduled date for announcing the overnight rate target is March 6, 2024. The Bank will publish its next full outlook for the economy and inflation, including risks to the projection, in the MPR on April 10, 2024.

Reported as of the Bank of Canada website.

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