..At least that’s what Mark Carney and other Bank of Canada officials have said according to this article, yet they’re refraining from being more specific.
Meanwhile the Organization for Economic and Co-operative Development (OECD) is urging Canada to start raising interest rates in the fall and keep on raising them to stop an inflating housing bubble and reign in inflation.
The OECD, a high-powered economic research group backed by contributions from its 34 rich country members, offers a scenario: An increase in the benchmark rate of a quarter of a percentage point in the autumn, and similar increases each quarter through to the end of next year, leaving the benchmark overnight target at 2.25 per cent.
That still would be low by historical standards, yet, according to the OECD, likely a big enough increase to cause prospective homeowners to think twice before buying at current inflated prices. However, the OECD’s recommendation comes with a risk.
The Federal Reserve Board has made a conditional pledge to leave U.S. rates extremely low until the end of 2014. Following the OECD’s path could create an unprecedented spread between Canadian and U.S. interest rates, which would put upward pressure on a Canadian dollar that many say already is too strong.
Oh, and the OECD made this same recommendation a year ago and was ignored. So I wonder how Carney intends to bring the days of ultra-cheap money to an end?
The agency examined the exposure of Canada’s six largest banks to mortgage risk and found that household debt fuelled by mortgage credit expansion in Canada is the largest threat to credit profiles.
“These are quite high levels of debt for households and the movement in house prices, we don’t think this is sustainable in the long term,” said report author Fabrice Toka, senior director at Fitch.
The six banks have a combined $730-billion in mortgage exposure and an additional $182-billion in home equity loan exposure, the report noted.
High unemployment or interest rate shock “could aversely affect the ability of leveraged homeowners to meet their mortgage obligations,” the report said.
The risk testing scenario looked at drops of 1 to 10% and sees CIBC and RBC as the most exposed to mortgage value risks. The debt-to-income ratio in Canada is currently higher than it was in pre-recession US, but Fitch points out that there are structural differences in our housing market.
“CMHC estimates that roughly 25 per cent of condominiums in the Greater Toronto Area are sold but sitting vacant — shades of Miami at the height of its collapsed condo bubble in 2007. Other analysts say the 25 per cent figure may be too low.
“This is the ghost city phenomenon,” Mr. Holt said.
Condo developers in Eastern cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, appear to be rushing to sell and build units before interest rates start to climb, and the market crashes.”
But if you visit that link you’ll no longer find that text and the headline has been changed to “Housing starts shoot higher on back of condo boom” (although as of this writing the URL still shows the original title). Why the dramatic change in tone?
Here’s a couple of recent stories about Canada’s Housing Agency: First off there’s the news that the government seems to be trying to figure out how to distance themselves from it, maybe by selling it off:
Anyone trying to understand the concern over a potential housing bubble in Canada need look no further than the debate among government officials over whether to exit the mortgage insurance business.
The board of Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp. considered selling the home loan insurer last year, according to former Chairman Dino Chiesa, who’s term ended in March. CMHC, set up in 1946 to promote home ownership, also studied the sale of Australia’s government-owned insurer and presented the findings to the Bank of Canada, according to documents released to Bloomberg News under Canada’s Access to Information Act.
But of course the CMHC is also saying they see ‘no sign of a market bubble’.
While the report did not make specific reference to the government’s changes in the oversight of CMHC, it did offer what could be characterized an strong validation of its role and operations.
“CMHC follows prudential regulations as set out by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, with CMHC maintaining more than twice the minimum capital required by OSFI,” it said. “As a result, CMHC is well positioned to weather possible severe economic scenarios.”
The report also highlighted the important role CMHC plays in the housing market, which it said accounted for 20%, or $346-billion, of Canada’s gross domestic product last year. It pointed out the agency “manages its mortgage loan insurance and securitization guarantee operations using sound business practices that ensure commercial viability without having to rely on the government of Canada for support.”