The bank was balancing two forces, and opted not to move its key rate any lower. It sits at 0.5 per cent, and is tied for best in the industrial world. It affects every other consumer and business borrowing rate.
If you’re that rare breed called a saver, at 0.50 per cent your $ 1 doubles every 144 years.
One issue the bank had to consider was whether the continued rise in the Canadian dollar, now at the 75 cent (U.S.) level, will hurt Canada’s export recovery. Three quarters of our exports are destined for the U.S., where conditions are improving. A lower dollar encourages sales.
On the other hand, a rate cut would deflate the dollar, which makes Canadians anxious, meaning they spend less, not more. A cut would also increase the likelihood of inflationary pressures, and would add more fuel to red-hot housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto. Detached homes in these cities are now virtually out of reach for first-time buyers.
When it comes to future rate decisions,the bank says that in advance of April’s rate setting, it will evaluate the impact of fiscal stimulus measures Ottawa is expected to include in the March 22 federal budget.
Low interest rates have given us too much of everything. Too many coffee beans, too much steel, too much coal and iron ore to make the steel, too many tankers to move around too much oil and too many freighters to move around too much coal.
Consumers have piled on debt, which — no surprise — sits at a record. And there has been over-investment in mining, energy and some industrial assets. A lot of that extra investment went into China’s 20-year infrastructure spending spree, though not exclusively. China’s boom was fuelled by cheap money from its central bank.
In November, it cut its dividend and laid off 1,000 people. Teck’s B shares, which were trading at $ 53.37 five years ago, had lost 93 per cent of their value by mid-January, hitting $ 3.65. They’ve rebounded some since, opening at $ 9.85 Wednesday in Toronto.
Teck is just one company, in one suffering industry.
Contra The Heard, a Toronto investment letter that’s been around for more than 20 years and focuses on contrarian investing, took a look at some of the excesses created by a low-to-zero interest rate world.
But what we got is gluts. You can include the stock market in this. A sea of cheap money created bubbles that have formed and burst with increasing frequency. These include the global crash of 2008-2009 and the latest 2015-2016 selloff.
Low rates “seduced companies to pursue projects that would not have been profitable or feasible with higher-cost debt,” Contra argues.
“I would say this is a dangerous game banks are playing,” said David Lafferty, based in Boston for Natixis Global Asset Management. Natixis, which has $ 870 billion (U.S.) in assets under management, designs portfolios for pension funds.
“I think the benefits are highly uncertain and the side effects are largely unknown,” Lafferty said.
More columns by Adam Mayers