Wednesday, October 03, 2007

TD Canada Trust predictions for remainder of year

TD Canada Trust predictions for remainder of year


  • Canadian economy records steady growth

  • Cross-currents will continue to blow across Canada's major industries

  • Inflation monster continues to lurk in the background

This morning's release of Canadian gross domestic product (GDP) for July – while falling in on the soft side of market expectations – revealed that the economy continued to churn out steady gains early in the third quarter. The 0.2% month-to-month increase recorded in the month leaves the economy on track to record a respectable rate of growth of 2.5-3% in the third quarter, which is only modestly slower than the 3.5% average outturn clocked in the first half of the year. As has been the case in recent months, the service sector remained the tower of strength, forging ahead by 0.3% on a month-to-month basis in July and counter-balancing another soft performance on the goods side (-0.1%). Since monthly data are notoriously volatile, we've provided a snapshot of year-over-year changes across the sub-industries As can be seen, the service areas have reigned supreme, while Canada's export-oriented manufacturing sector has struggled.

The headwinds will increase

While the weaker-than-expected GDP result pushed down Canadian bond yields and took some steam out of the overnight rally in the Canadian dollar – which had pushed the loonie to 1.007 U.S. cents – investors are more concerned with what may lie ahead. For one, neither the GDP data for July nor August's stronger-than-expected Canadian employment report factor in the fallout from the recent financial turmoil that spread across the globe. Certainly, credit conditions have improved since the height of the mid-August turmoil, with interest-rate spreads on riskier assets easing from their highs. Still, international credit markets have not returned back to normal, as evidenced yesterday when both the Bank of Canada and the ECB moved once again to inject liquidity into their respective overnight market in order to ease the upward pressure on lending rates. In Canada, participants of the Montreal proposal that aims to resolve the third-party asset backed commercial paper (ABCP) crisis announced this week that they will need more time to find a solution to the issue.

Perhaps more importantly, the prospects of the U.S. economy have steadily dimmed since the summer. This week's reported 4%/8% drop in new/existing home sales and further deterioration in prices point to a housing market retrenchment that still has at least a year to run. Investors were served up some better news this morning, with the reported 0.6% gain in U.S. personal spending, which topped forecasts. Yet the spotlight quickly turned to the weaker-than-expected 0.3% gain in personal income that put downward pressure on the saving rate.

Given that 70% of U.S. GDP is tied to the consumer, so much of the near-term outlook Stateside rests on the performance of the job market, and in turn, the level of business confidence. We remain optimistic that the business sector will keep its head above water in the months ahead, supported by still-healthy balance sheets and cash positions. This week's report on durable goods for August highlighted the fact that while non-defense capital spending has slowed over the past few months, it remains at a respectable level. Certainly, next week's U.S. non-farm payrolls report for September will provide precious insights. Our bet is that employment growth resumed in the month, but by only 75,000 jobs. This pace is consistent with our outlook for lethargic quarterly real GDP growth of 1.5-2% in the near term.

Cross-currents in Canada's economy

The chillier headwinds from tighter credit market conditions and softness in the U.S. economy will not be lost on Canada's economy. Little reprieve can be expected in manufacturing, which has seen its cost edge evaporate from the surge in the Canadian dollar. In some areas – notably autos – U.S. producers appear to be moving to shore up profitability, exacerbating the manufacturing challenge for Canada. That said, other industries will continue to enjoy solid conditions. Consumer-driven industries, such as wholesale and retail trade, will continue expand at a decent rate, supported by a 33+ year low unemployment rate. These two industries also top the list of Canadian sectors actually benefiting from a soaring loonie. Housing markets may have started to cool in Alberta, but ongoing strength nation-wide should continue to provide enormous spill-over benefits across the gamut of goods and services industries. Although resource companies are confronting rising costs and a higher loonie, ongoing rapid expansion in China will continue to provide a solid underpinning on prices for oil and metals. Above all, this week's announced $14 billion federal budget surplus for fiscal 2006-07 served up a reminder that government coffers in Canada are the envy of the G-7, providing wiggle room to initiate tax cuts and other measures to help offset some of the challenges on the competitiveness front.

Netting out these offsetting headwinds and tailwinds, we project economic growth in Canada to run at a rate of about 2% over the next year. This moderate pace will continue to fuel debate about the Bank of Canada's likely next move. In a speech this week, Bank of Canada Governor Dodge indicated that the current rate setting was appropriate in view of the downside risks to growth and inflation emanating from the U.S. and the upside risks from booming housing activity.

As we discuss in the latest monthly edition of TD Global Markets, released yesterday, it is the inflation risk that is likely to win out, prompting the Bank of Canada to raise rates by 25 basis points in December after the Fed delivers one final rate cut at its October confab. Given that financial markets are pricing in more significant easing in the U.S. and are still betting on a modest easing in Canada, we are projecting a backup in yields on both sides of the border by 30-40 basis points by year-end. Lastly, the Canadian dollar will end the year at parity before falling back to about 95 U.S. cents in 2008. Article courtesy of R.Paul Chadwick from TD Canada Trust

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