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TagBank of Canada

Inflation rate drops in February and rate hikes pulled back.

It may seem hard to believe  but Canada’s core inflation rate is down in February to lowest level since 1984 as reported by CBC.  It’s now 0.90%.

Filling up my car at the gas pumps or buying groceries is certainly costing me more… So how can the inflation rate be lower be lower?

The Core inflation rate strips away food and energy costs resulting in a lower rate of inflation.

The Bank of Canada has a Target inflation rate of 2%.  The Target range is 1% to 3%.  When you combine a high Canadian $dollar that is at par with the $US dollar and this low inflation rate, the Bank of Canada less likely to raise the Target Rate….for now.

Here are a few forecasts…  Citigroup says a rate hike will not take place in April but instead, July.  And retired RBC Chief Economist, Patricia Croft says to watch the Bank of Canada 2 year bond yields for an indication of where the market thinks rates are headed.   The yields have dropped from 1.90% to 1.68%.    She says the market thinks rates won’t go up til October and only by 35bps.  But she thinks we should be ready for summer rate hikes.  The next few inflation reports will play a big part in the Bank of Canada’s future decisions.

I tend to agree with both forecasts… Summer rate hikes are  likely…. but I’m not sure how high and how quickly these rate hikes will happen.   We’ll be watching and reporting.

Report shows Canadian borrowers are too complacent…don’t drink the koolaid.

That’s what a report in the latest Bank of Canada Review had to say…    This article in the National Post sums it up well…  “Simply put, borrowers are often complacent and end up paying more than they should.

This is exactly the reason I started this site…..To make you an informed borrower. Like the review said,  “consumers have different preferences and skills when shopping and bargaining for a mortgage and where lenders maximize profits based on observing these preferences and skills.”

So, how does the average Canadian borrower know if they are getting the absolute best rate or the right mortgage product?  Is there a better product with a different Bank, Financial institutions or other Lender?  How do you know if you aren’t speaking with an unbiased professional that doesn’t work for any one bank?  For me, there is only one sure way to know you are getting a highly competitive mortgage product…..You must deal with a Mortgage Broker.

Here’s another quote from the Bank of Canada Review…  Canadian lenders appear to be extremely slow to pass on changes in the Bank Rate to their customers.”  I’m sure this comes as no surprise to most of us.

Never forget that the Banks are a business… and they are here to make a profit… It’s imperative to seek unbiased, market neutral advice…..  A Bank Mortgage Specialist just can’t be neutral or unbiased….They can only offer one set of products…  I save the best for last….

A Mortgage Broker helps to ‘creates competition’ as the report said.

Hopefully, this site will keep you informed and awake…Don’t settle for the status quo….

Bank of Canada action not always prudent or correct…

Have to share this article giving us some history on the accuracy of the Bank of Canada (BOC)  interest rate forecasts…   This should get you thinking a little the next time you hear the  BOC forecasts…. Take a look at this Historical Rates chart.. look at the Bank Prime section…   You will notice some trends of rates hikes followed by rate drops…

We aren’t saying BOC rates will fall anytime soon… it’s clear the rate will go up…. but there is no straight line increase if you look back in history… Increases are followed by decreases…

-1992.. the BOC erred and raised rates thinking the economy was strong but they quickly retreated and reversed those increases after realizing it was too much, too soon.

-1995…the Quebec referendum year… remember that?  I do.. I bought a house that year… and interest rates went up 1.00% overnight after fears of a Quebec ‘YES’ vote was more than possible… but then rates dropped like a rock and remained low for several years…

-2000….another recession… the dot.com, dot.bomb error of hi-tech stock greed…  rates had climbed in 1998 and 1999 but dropped in 2001 and remained low once again…

-2008…the U.S. mortgage crisis… the worst Global recession since the Great Depression of the ’30s…. we saw BOC drop the rate to a modern-day record low…Bank Prime was 2.25%…

-2010…the BOC kept it’s promise to raise rates and increased the rate by 0.75% over a 3 month span to 3.00%….

-2011…. ?????  the BOC is expected to raise rates by as much as 1.00% this year, and another 1.50% next year, according to the RBC Economist…. Did the BOC raise rates too quickly?  Can our economy absorb these increases?   Questions that won’t be answered for a while…

It doesn’t mean you have to sit and do nothing

But this doesn’t mean you have to stand by and be a spectator.   By keeping informed with historical trends and understanding your own personal situation, you can be in control…. Understand where you fit in… Is Fixed rate better for you now?  Does Variable Rate still make sense for you?   Can you handle the potential increases that are coming?    A good Mortgage Broker can help guide you to the right answer… Remember, it’s your mortgage, your payment…your decision.

January credit card offers, new mortgage rules and Canadians buying U.S. real estate…

There’s been lots of reaction to the latest round of Mortgage rule changes… it’s been just over a week since the changes were announced and I’ve had some time to digest these changes but something just isn’t making sense.

At the same time, my December credit card bills have started to come in…..and because it’s January, I’m also getting those preapproved credit card offers…. I can even skip a payment with some of my credit cards… Isn’t that convenient?

This made me wonder….I decided to ask some simple questions like, “who will be affected?”… and “who will benefit?”.    Here’s what I have come up with…

First, here’s what a few Experts think…

Jim Murhpy, President of Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals, says ‘Debt Fears are overblown’…. and here are the stats to back it up.   One stat that really stood out for me was that 79% of Canadians are in a 5 year fixed rate mortgage… that means 79% of Canadians are not at risk of interest rate hikes…

(as an aside, I still like Variable rate mortgages with their low interest rates and the historical data that clearly shows Variable outperforming Fixed rate….but if the govt wants us to be ‘safe and secure’ in our mortgage, then this stat should make the govt feel more comfortable)….

On January 10th, 2011, Bank of Canada’s own Deputy Governor, Agatha Cote, said that debt growth in Canada was slowing… So hold on here….On the one hand, we are spending like kids in a candy shop.. but on the other hand, our spending has slowed….  Mixed message?  … So what’s really going on?

I’m going to change the subject for a minute…. but read on as you will see this is all related….

Canadians are buying U.S. real estate like never before

There was another great article last week that showed Canadians are the largest foreign buyers of real estate in the U.S. accounting for 23% of all purchases? WOW!  And in border towns like Ellicottville, New York, a local real estate broker said Canadians accounted for 50% of sales….   read more here.

These stats and buying patterns are showing me something…  Our mortgage arrears are below 1.00%… this is an unbelievably low number.. Click here to see what our U.S. neighbors are saying…..   Hmmm, maybe we are borrowing wisely?  Maybe we are borrowing to invest?  Isn’t this a good way to spend our money?

If the govt wants to slow personal debt levels, then why not impose qualifying rules on borrowing unsecured lines of credits, credit cards and loans?   After all, mortgage balances are around $1trillion… but Credit card purchases totaled $260billion...!   Remember this number.

Who is really affected by the new Mortgage Rules?

Simply put, there are 3 new Mortgage rule changes:

1- Amortization maximum is 30 years, down from 35 years and down from 40 years in 2008.    2- Refinances will be reduced to 85% loan to value, down from 90% and down from 95% just 2 years ago.   3- Secured lines of Credit will no longer be insured, meaning the maximum is 80% loan to value.

1- 30 year Amortization.First time home buyers, Self-employed, contract employees are just some of the people that will be affected.. More Canadians are becoming self-employed or are on contract employment… This group of individuals doesn’t get a steady pay cheque… I would always recommend that this group take the longest amortization possible….Not to have a mortgage forever, but to ensure they have options and flexibility during times of uncertain income…  I would also recommend they set their payments based on a 25 year amortization or shorter… The longer amortization just means you could always reduce your payment to the lowest possible amount if and when needed.

This change will also make it a little harder for some Canadians to qualify for a mortgage… If you think this is good you need to remember last year, the government changed the rules that made it mandatory for all mortgages with less than 20% down to qualify at the Bank POSTED 5 year fixed rate (if you were considering a shorter term or a Variable Rate mortgage).  Many Banks are using this policy even if you have more than 20% down payment.   In effect, many of us are being forced into a 5 year fixed rate mortgage…. and which product do banks make the most profit on?   You guessed it… 5 year fixed rate mortgages…. read here for a little more insight.

Rental property Investors will also be affected.  Let’s face it, company pension plans are a thing of the past for most of us… (sometimes I wish I had a government job)…  So what’s someone without a company pension supposed to do?  RRSP you say?  Well, if your RRSP is anything like mine, then you are better off going to the racetrack or Las Vegas ….  At least you’ll have a good time spending it.   Real estate has been a proven winner over the last 10, 20, 40, 100, 300 years and probably longer….  The rents are usually indexed with cost of living and over time, the mortgage is eliminated giving you income and an appreciating asset.  Last year, the govt got out of lending on rental properties with less than 20% down…   It’s now a little harder to buy that investment property…

2- Refinances to 85% loan to value… Just one year ago, we were able to refinance our homes up to 95%… This options was not used by many…  Then it was reduced to 90%… now it’s 85%…   This won’t affect many of us but it will affect some..   Most people refinancing up to 85% or 90% were doing so to consolidate higher interest debt or to cover some emergency expense.   How is this helping to lower our personal debt levels?     This move will just force us to carry and borrow with those higher interest rate products… (are seeing a pattern here?)

3- Secured lines of Credit or Home Equity Lines of Credit (Heloc) are no longer available over 80%… This change really doesn’t affect many of us as most lenders stopped offering this product long ago and even when it was being offered, the costs were prohibitive.  This is a non-event.

Who will benefit from these new Mortgage rules?

So who really benefits from making it harder to qualify for a mortgage?   The answer is simple… Canadians will be forced to carry more debt on their credit cards, unsecured lines of credit and other high interest rate products… There are NO rule changes or policies in place for these products…  Don’t forget, credit card purchases totaled around $260billion last year…. In case you’re wondering, the total outstanding mortgage balances in Canada is around $1trillion.

The new rules won’t slow the credit seeker from getting another credit card and buying that new surround sound stero or hot tub or new car, etc..

So why did the government choose to make even further changes to mortgage rules?  The answers are obvious to me but I will let you decide.

Bank of Canada dates for 2011

Happy New Year!  Wishing you all the best in 2011….

Here’s the Bank of Canada’s schedule for key interest rate announcements in 2011.

January 18, March 1, April 12, May 31, July 19, September 7, October 25, December 6.

The Bank meets eight times a year to set the Target Interest rate.   This rate directly affects the Bank Prime rate and Variable rate mortgages.  It also affects Fixed rate mortgage indirectly.

Historically, the Bank adjusts this rate up and down between 2 and 3 times a year.   In 2010, we had 3 rate increases of 0.25% each after a full 12 months of no changes.  And most experts were forecasting for even greater rate hikes…   This all changed when the economic recovery stumbled in many parts of the world, raising fears of a double dip recession.

Even today, there is still uncertainty about the economy in many parts of Europe and the U.S.   At home, in Canada, we seem to be doing well….not great, but okay.

This uncertainty is delaying the expected interest rate hikes that so many experts were calling for in 2010….  Best guess now is for rates to remain stable until April or even July.

Enjoy the low rates…!