The Bank of Canada opted to maintain its target for the overnight interest rate this morning at 1.25 per cent. In the statement accompanying the decision, the Bank noted that although growth in the Canadian economy slowed more than expected in the fourth quarter of 2017, the economy is expected to operate at capacity going forward. The bank cited recent trade policy developments, mainly the threat of a trade war with the United States, as a significant risk to its outlook for growth and inflation.
The Canadian economy is at or very close to full-employment, meaning there is little room for Canadian firms to expand output without putting undue pressure on inflation. There are signs core inflation is already firming up. Two of the Bank’s three core inflation measures are closing in on the Bank’s 2 per cent target and all three measures have increased significantly in the past six months. Absent any unforeseen challenges to the Canadian economy, monetary policy will be biased in the direction of higher interest rates. However, the Bank will likely hold off raising its overnight rate while it assesses the impact of tighter monetary policy over the past year, the impact of newly implemented B-20 guidelines on mortgage qualification rules, and heightened risk to Canadian exports from US trade policy.
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