HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
- A holiday-shortened week was nevertheless chock-full of data releases that confirmed the U.S. economy continues to expand at a strong above-trend pace.
- Economic activity remains robust, but there are signs that trade uncertainty may be impeding further improvement.
- Tariffs on $34 billion in goods from China, and on U.S. goods to China, take effect today. Although these tariffs remain a downside risk to our economic outlook, further escalation could prove direr.
China Tariffs Likely to Impede Economic Momentum
The holiday-shortened week was a very busy one for investors in Canada, with global political developments and economic data to digest. Equities faded late in the week on oil prices, pushed lower on higher Saudi production and trade tensions, but a broad-based recovery took hold, with a positive end to the week looking like at the time of writing. The U.S. implemented additional $34bn in tariffs on Chinese exports taking relations to a new low and weighing on the greenback – down 0.5% on Friday vis-à-vis most majors.
Escalating tensions between Canada’s two most important trade partners weighted on sentiment, but economic data has so far remained intact. Hiring resumed in June with the Canadian economy adding 32k jobs last month. Gains were led by construction and manufacturing, while services disappointed, losing jobs on net for the first time in five months. Despite the job creation, unemployment ticked higher by 20bps to 6.0% as more than 75k people entered the labour force – a six year high. Average wages decelerated, down some 30bps, but at 3.6% y/y remains near a decade-high (Chart 1).
Canadian trade figures were less inspiring with the deficit in May widening to $2.8bn. Imports were up 1.7% and 1.2% in nominal and real terms, respectively. They were somewhat boosted by airliner and gasoline imports, but strength was broad-based across categories, indicative of healthy domestic demand. Exports, on the other hand were weak, remaining flat in nominal terms while volumes fell 1.0%. While much of the weakness was related to transitory factors including supply disruptions in automotive parts and work stoppages in iron mines, exports are unlikely to surge going forward. Alongside ongoing NAFTA uncertainty, the imposition of tariffs in June will have a severe impact on the Canadian metals industry, with potential for downstream effects a real risk.
Another risk central to the Canadian economy is the housing market. This week we got June real estate board data for the two most closely watched markets in Canada. Figures from TREB suggested the recovery in the GTA market has begun in earnest. Sales rose for the first time this year (Chart 2), surging by nearly 18% in June according to TREB figures, but remaining well below historical norms. New listings, meanwhile, pulled back, helping rebalance the market. The tighter conditions led prices higher, with the HPI up about 0.2% while average prices rose over 3% – on account of increased activity in the most expensive single-detached segment. The GVA by contrast, saw both activity and new listings pull back around 10% apiece in June, according to REBGV figures. The decline in sales was the fifth in six months, with the softness manifesting in prices. The HPI was down 0.5% in June, the third consecutive decline and the weakest performance since late-2016, which also followed a provincial policy change.
Risks related to trade and housing will surely be top of mind for the Governing Council when it meets next week to discuss monetary policy. But, until they are seen as likely to materialize they will not drive monetary policy. This is set on incoming data and the outlook, which are relatively sanguine. From that standpoint, another 25 basis point hike next week is the most appropriate move.
Michael Dolega, Senior Economist | 416-983-0500
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