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The Bank of Canada held its trend-setting Bank Rate at 1.25 per cent on June 19th, 2011. This marks the seventh consecutive policy decision in which interest rates have been kept on hold.
 
The Bank has been warning for some time that interest rates will ultimately have to rise, but hinted more strongly in this most recent announcement that a hike was coming by removing the word “eventually” as to when that might happen.
 
The Bank said, “To the extent that the expansion continues and the current material excess supply in the economy is gradually absorbed, some of the considerable monetary policy stimulus currently in place will be withdrawn, consistent with achieving the 2 per cent inflation target.”
 
The Bank noted, however, that downside risks to the outlook remain elevated, with debt woes on both sides of the Atlantic, and that the outlook for a gradually improving domestic picture assumes these issues will be contained. As regards the European situation the Bank said, “The Bank’s projection assumes that authorities are able to contain the ongoing European sovereign debt crisis, although there are clear risks round this outcome.”
 
The Bank’s forcast for economic growth in Canada was little changed from its April forecast. The Bank now expects the economy will grow 2.8 per cent this year. This was revised slightly from the previous forecast of 2.9 per cent. The Bank kept its 2012 and 2013 growth forecasts unchanged at 2.6per cent and 2.1 per cent respectively.
Also unchanged were expectations that the output gap, a measure the spare capacity in the economy, would be closed by the middle of next year, and that headline inflation would remain above 3 per cent in the near term due to temporary factors, namely higher food and energy prices.
 
The core rate of inflation, which strips out those volatile items, hit 1.8 per cent in May owing to “persistent strength in the prices of some services.” The Bank now expects the core rate to “remain around 2 per cent over the projection horizon.”
 
As of July 19th, 2011, the advertised five-year lending rate stood at 5.54 per cent. This is down 0.05 percentage points from 5.59 per cent on May 31st, when the Bank made its previous policy interest rate announcement.
 
The Bank will make its next scheduled rate announcement on September 7, 2011, and many experts had already been forecasting a rate hike at that time. Given the slight change in tone in this most recent announcement, bets for a September hike will likely be increased further. That said, a lot could happen between then and now, particularly given the magnitude of current downside risks.

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Simon Fraser
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