The Bank of Canada on Wednesday releases its latest forecast for the Canadian economy and decides whether to hold its trend-setting overnight interest rate at 0.5 per cent.A consensus estimate of 22 analysts and economists surveyed by Bloomberg News expects the bank to keep its current rate of 0.5 per cent in place. The last time the bank changed the rate was mid-2015, and that move was a 0.25 percentage point decrease that responded to a slowdown in commodity prices.More eyes will be on the bank’s latest Monetary Policy Report, a quarterly publication that spells out the bank’s latest forecasts for how Canada’s economy will perform this year.There are a lot of recent numbers out there that suggest Canada’s economy is doing very well. The gross domestic product figure that Statistics Canada released for January, the most recently monthly GDP stat that’s available, suggests Canada’s economy may be on track to grow by as much as four per cent this year.
But leading up to the release of the bank’s report, private sector economists expect that Stephen Poloz, governor of the Bank of Canada, will be muted in his language on Wednesday.Benjamin Reitzes, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets, expects a neutral report that draws attention to the downside risks that might interrupt the recovery. “Indeed, Governor Poloz wants to ensure that bond yields and the Canadian dollar stay under wraps.”Even so, the bank won’t be totally ignoring the recent strong data points. Reitzes expects the Bank of Canada to announce a “material” upgrade to its growth forecast.In its January monetary policy report, the bank predicted Canada’s economy will grow 2.1 per cent in each of 2017 and 2018. The bank has said it predicts Canada’s economy to hit full capacity around mid-2018.
Economists will look to see whether the bank moves up that timeline. In addition to the strong January GDP number, employment growth has been gathering steam.“It is getting more and more difficult to ignore the good news out of the Canadian economy,” said James Marple, a senior economist with TD Bank Group. Avery Shenfeld, chief economist with CIBC Capital Markets, said the bank will have to acknowledge that Canada’s economic growth is exceeding its previous expectations. CIBC expects the Bank of Canada will likely raise its benchmark interest rate in the first half of 2018, or perhaps even sooner still if the U.S. settles on a tax and trade policy. But Shenfeld said the Bank of Canada wants to keep the Canadian dollar low to help boost Canadian exports. The Bank of Canada will likely emphasize Canada’s softest data. “While we understand the motivation, we’re not fans of cherry picking the weakest economic indicators to paint a negative picture of what have been a few good quarters. But the governor seems inclined to do so,” Shenfeld said.