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No Change to Bank of Canada Rate in October, Even as Inflation Burns Hot

Canada’s central bank, which sets the cost of borrowing among the country’s consumer lenders, opted today to keep its trend-setting Overnight Lending Rate untouched at 0.25%, where it has remained since March 2020.

The Bank of Canada has used their rate to keep the overall cost of borrowing low for Canadians since the start of the pandemic, in efforts to stimulate the economy and keep credit flowing amid the resulting recession. Now that the economy is in recovery mode, however, the Bank of Canada finds itself with the conundrum of maintaining this stimulus, even as inflation hits new heights.

Inflation Hits Nearly 20-Year High

The inflation rate hit 4.4% – a nearly 20-year high – in September, according to Statistics Canada, driven largely by rising food and fuel prices, and steep challenges facing the global supply chain. In more typical, non-pandemic times, the Bank of Canada sticks to an inflation rate ceiling of 2%, hiking their rate once this target is hit.

However, while the Bank of Canada acknowledges the forces pushing up prices are “stronger and more persistent than expected”, it remains committed to its current approach, forecasting that inflation normalizing – and the first rate hike – won’t occur until the mid- to end of 2022.

“We remain committed to holding the policy interest rate at the effective lower bound until economic slack is absorbed so that the 2 percent inflation target is sustainably achieved,” states the Bank of Canada in their October announcement. “In the Bank’s projection, this happens sometime in the middle quarters of 2022.”

Further rationale for the rate hold is that while vaccines have effectively helped economies re-open, and activity remains strong in the investment and housing markets, full growth potential is being limited by the logistical challenges and supply shortages experienced by global trade. In its October Monetary Policy Report, the Bank of Canada calls for global GDP to grow 6.5% in 2021 – a strong showing, but lower than what was projected in July. Canadian growth, meanwhile, is projected to grow 5% this year, before tapering to 4.25% in 2022, and 3.25 in 2023.

Fixed Rates Poised to Rise Following Today’s Announcement

However, the Bank of Canada did announce a change that will have some immediate impact on consumers; they have decided to end their quantitative easing program, and will no longer be pumping $2 billion weekly into the government bond market.

This will push the yields of those bonds higher, which will in turn drive up the pricing of fixed mortgage rates. That’s because, like the impact of the Bank of Canada’s Overnight Lending Rate on variable rates, consumer lenders take their cue from the bond market when pricing fixed-rate products such as mortgages. And, as yields were rising sharply even before the Bank of Canada’s decision to end QE – the five-year bond hit 1.43% today, an increase of over a percent from one year ago – fixed rates are poised to go ever higher.

What Does This Mean for Toronto Mortgage Rate?

If you’re currently locked into a fixed-rate mortgage term, today’s announcement won’t have an immediate impact on you, as your rate will not change for the length of your term. However, those shopping for a new fixed rate, or are coming up for a renewal or refinance, may find themselves in a higher interest rate environment, with offerings a percentage point or so higher than six months ago.

Variable mortgage rate holders, which are impacted by the direction of the Overnight Lending Rate, won’t see an immediate change either – but they should take heed of the forecasted increases to come in 2022. While the Bank of Canada has indicated a hike won’t occur until the later half of the year, it remains to be seen how many times they’ll hike once they start doing so.

Analysts are split on just how high the rate may rise post-pandemic; the most hawkish forecast from Scotiabank’s head of capital markets Derek Holt calls for a total of eight hikes between 2022 and 2023, before settling at 2.25%.

While it remains too soon to determine if such a dramatic increase is in the cards post-pandemic, borrowers of all kinds would be wise to pay close attention to rate trends as the economy shifts towards “normal”.

The final Bank of Canada announcement of the year is scheduled for December 8, 2021.

This article first appeared on Zoocasa written by Penelope Graham

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