Tuesday, December 09, 2008

RBC's comments on how Canada slipped into this economic downturn

This is a very good summary about RBC's comments on how Canada slipped into this economic downturn that we are currently experiencing.

It should be very interesting how deep and how long this current slowdown in our economy continues

I hope this finds you happy and healthy!

Housing downturn — Canadian-style

Canadians have watched with amazement for nearly two years now at the collapse of the housing sector in the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries that experienced overvalued housing prices with the sense that markets in this country stand on much more solid ground. After all, the sub-prime business never represented more than a marginal phenomenon here; Canadian households, while carrying heavier debt loads than in the past, were not financially overstretched; Canadian banks emerged islands of stability amid the global financial storm; incomes remained well supported by steady job creation and a strong domestic economy; and the influence of speculation — especially on new construction — was deemed to be subdued.

Then, late in 2007, red-hot Alberta markets began to slide, followed earlier this year by British Columbia’s markets. Most recently, Saskatchewan, last year’s hotspot, and areas in Ontario joined the weakening trend. All of a sudden, Canada no longer appeared immune to a generalized housing downturn. In fact, the souring of economic conditions, eroding consumer confidence and, in some instances, past excesses are creating a downdraft that the majority of Canada’s housing markets will be hard-pressed to resist.

As a sluggish economy threatens income growth and makes households much more skittish about major financial commitments, issues of affordability are coming to the fore. Much of the market correction taking place in British Columbia, Alberta and, now, parts of Saskatchewan can be traced to very poor affordability levels in those provinces.

However, high home ownership costs are not unique to western Canada. RBC’s affordability measures lie above long-run averages in all provinces and across all housing segments, which suggests that the downdraft will be felt widely.

Still, the extent of “unaffordability” varies substantially by province, with measures running as high as 48% above average in the B.C. standard townhouse segment and as low as 6% above average in the Quebec detached bungalow segment. Overall, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta remain the least affordable markets in Canada (relative to their respective historical norms).

While the Canadian housing sector is undoubtedly entering a cyclical downturn, the risk of experiencing a U.S.-style meltdown is remote. The supportive factors mentioned above are still mostly in play and should provide enough backing to prevent markets from spiraling down even as the Canadian economy slips into recession.

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