The Bank of Canada announced on April 15th, 2015 it was keeping its trend-setting overnight lending rate at 0.75 per cent.
While official economic growth statistics for the first quarter of 2015 won’t be available until the end of May, the Bank estimates that Canada’s economy was stuck in neutral. Governor Poloz had already telegraphed as much in an interview with the Financial Times and it should come as no surprise given the impact of the drop in oil prices this year.
In its interest rate announcement, the Bank made it clear that it thinks the worst of the damage to the Canadian economy from lower oil prices is behind us. It expects economic activity to bounce back in the second and third quarters even more strongly than previously predicted due mainly to an anticipated increase in non-energy exports.
The Bank’s forecast is perhaps optimistic regarding near term economic prospects given, since there is scant evidence that non-energy exports are in fact ramping up. Moreover, its Monetary Policy Report (MPR) which accompanied the announcement acknowledged that “the full impact of the decline in oil prices has yet to show up in employment statistics.”
The rebalanced forecast allows the Bank to maintain its view that inflation will return to its two per cent target by the end of 2016. At this point, that means the goalposts for the first interest rate hike have not moved. Most Bay Street economists expect the Bank to keep interest rates on hold until late 2016.
That said, the Bank identified greater than anticipated economic fallout from oil prices as the number one risk to its forecast. If damage to the Canadian economy from lower oil prices worsen or drag on for longer than anticipated, it may be forced to again downgrade its next economic forecast and perhaps trim interest rates in July.
As of April 15th, 2015, the advertised five-year lending rate stood at 4.64 per cent, down 0.1 percentage points from the previous Bank rate announcement on March 4th, and down 0.35 percentage points from one year ago.
The next interest rate announcement will be on May 27th, 2015. The next update to the Monetary Policy Report will be on July 15th, 2015.