Call it Goldilocks and the three housing bears, because bearish is what Tuesday’s report on home sales and prices will be.
If you own your home, it will be too cold. If you’re looking to buy, it might still be too hot. But if you’re a Canadian policy maker, it should be just right and maybe, you can live happily ever after.
The Canadian Real Estate Association is expected to report that national sales and prices suffered hefty declines in the wicked month of April, though the drops should be less severe than in March.
“The overall picture will continue to look weak,” said Bank of Montreal senior economist Robert Kavcic.
Canada’s housing markets have been adjusting to measures meant to cool them down, from taxes on foreign buyers, aimed at Vancouver and Toronto, to new mortgage-qualification rules from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, the bank regulator.
There have been other measures in British Columbia and Ontario, as well.
Having already seen some local reports, Mr. Kavcic expects CREA’s latest reading to show a 15-per-cent drop in national sales and a 7-per-cent decline in the average price. Those would follow drops of almost 23 per cent and 10.5 per cent, respectively, in March.
The MLS home price index, considered a better measure, should still show a rise, though of just 2 per cent from a year earlier, compared to the March gain of 4.6 per cent, Mr. Kavcic said.
While April’s report should be stronger than that of a month earlier, it will still suggest “soggy underlying conditions in the wake of new OSFI rules, Bank of Canada rate hikes and some provincial policy measures,” he added, citing Toronto’s April sales plunge of 32 per cent from a year earlier, and the 5.2-per-cent decline in benchmark prices for the worst showing since the recession.
“Vancouver sales fell 27 per cent year over year and, in both markets, we continue to see pronounced weakness at the higher end (versus strength in condos),” Mr. Kavcic said.
“Elsewhere, the picture is mixed, with Calgary and Edmonton very sluggish, while Ottawa and Montreal are still seeing markets tighten and prices accelerate.”
Home sales are feeling the impact of the new mortgage-qualification rules, which stress-test buyers as to what they can handle.
“Stress-testing ensures that when interest rates rise at the end of the first five-year period of a variable rate mortgage, homeowners can still afford their mortgage,” said Moody’s Analytics economist Thomas Nichols.
“This helps prevent mass foreclosures and a housing market crash,” he added, noting Canada’s exceptionally high ratio of household credit to disposable income.
“In an environment of rising rates and high leverage, Canadian regulators are wise to discourage lending.”
As for Goldilocks and fairy tales, there’s more than just home prices this week. NAFTA negotiators, for example, are scrambling against a congressional deadline, and there are still some quarterly corporate results to come.
- Vancouver house sales hit 17-year low for April as government measures spook buyers
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- Remember halcyon days and times a-changin’? Canadian baby boomers now face a housing crisis
MONDAY: THE UGLY DUCKLING
That would be the S&P/TSX Composite Index, which has lagged its peers, though shares of energy companies have gained on the rise in oil prices. So we’ll see how markets open the week.
The S&P 500 gained almost 2.5 per cent last week as the index “broke comfortably above its 50-day moving average, and looks to have forged an upward path out of the tight range it had been consolidating in since early in the year,” BMO’s Mr. Kavcic said.
However, higher oil prices “have done little to help relative TSX performance,” Mr. Kavcic said.
“To be fair, Canadian energy stocks are up roughly 7 per cent in the past month, almost matching their U.S. counterparts as the best performing sector in North America,” he added.
“But, they’re still down about 5 per cent from a year ago. Pipeline capacity concerns probably haven’t helped; and we’ve also seen strength in areas such as technology and consumer discretionary, sectors that are well underrepresented in the Canadian index.”
TUESDAY: THE GOLDEN GOOSE
Everyone on the Ontario election campaign trail will be watching for Hydro One’s financial results, given the controversy over chief executive officer Mayo Schmidt’s golden compensation.
The Liberals, whose government owns a big chunk of the utility, oppose the $6.2-million 2017 pay package, while Conservative Leader Doug Ford has threatened to fire the board.
Also worth watching will be the second reading of economic growth in the euro zone, the April report on U.S. retail sales, and other quarterly results from the likes of Linamar Corp., Park Lawn Corp. and others.
Economists believe U.S. retail sales rose 0.3 per cent or 0.4 per cent from March.
“Even though consumer spending growth slowed dramatically in the first quarter, that was partly due to the fact that Q4 was flattered by replacement spending following hurricanes,” Andrew Grantham of CIBC World Markets said.
“With disposable incomes getting a boost from tax reform and solid job creation, we expect consumer spending to accelerate again in Q2 and maintain decent momentum later in the year, as well.”
Also on tap are some indicators from China.
“We think that industrial production growth picked up in April, as the government’s pollution controls were removed altogether at the end of March,” Chang Liu of Capital Economics said.
“By contrast, slower infrastructure spending probably dragged down fixed investment growth. Retail sales growth probably slowed a touch, too, given the recent softening in consumer confidence.”
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WEDNESDAY: SLEEPING BEAUTY
Let’s see how Park Lawn stock opens after Tuesday’s post-market earnings. Because, you know, it’s not often you get to see an undertaker’s profit report. Park Lawn’s U.S. peers have already reported.
Statistics Canada, meanwhile, is set to release a report expected to show manufacturing sales rose about 0.5 per cent in March.
“That would build on a 1.9-per-cent jump in February that more than retraced a big 1.3-per-cent drop in January,” Royal Bank of Canada economists said in a lookahead.
Markets will also be watching for Japan’s report on first-quarter economic growth.
“We think that the preliminary estimate of Q1 GDP (Wednesday) will reveal a small fall, but the economy should rebound this quarter,” said Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics.
“Meanwhile, consumer prices (Friday) are likely to show a broad-based moderation in price pressures in April.”
THURSDAY: ALADDIN AND THE WONDERFUL LAMP
(Or, if you prefer, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo as Hansel, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland as Gretel, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer as the wicked witch. And, for good measure, U.S. President Donald Trump as Pinocchio since, by his own admission, he made up trade facts in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.)
Officials renegotiating the North American free-trade agreement may well need a genie given that, as The Globe and Mail’s Adrian Morrow and Greg Keenan report, they’re deadlocked on auto sector issues.
And U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan has warned that there wouldn’t be enough time for Congress to vote on a new NAFTA if it’s not done by May 17.
FRIDAY: NO WALRUS, BUT A CARPENTER
Observers expect to see stable April inflation from Statistics Canada, and just a tiny pickup in March retail sales, given how the housing slowdown has affected building materials.
“Canadian consumer spending has simmered down, and the March retail report will likely reinforce that theme,” said BMO’s Mr. Kavcic.
“Auto sales volumes and prices both dipped in the month (seasonally adjusted), but gas prices rose modestly,” he added.
“Elsewhere, resale housing weakness could continue to dampen furniture and building material spending. Look for total retail sales to edge up 0.1 per cent, or a slightly firmer 0.3 per cent excluding autos.”
Annual inflation, in turn, is expected to come in at between 2.2 and 2.4 per cent, compared to the March level of 2.3 per cent.
“Looking ahead, with gasoline prices likely to rise into the summer, we expect headline inflation to continue to firm and peak at 2.7 per cent, year over year, in June,” said Toronto-Dominion Bank economists.
“This trajectory reflects relatively stable core inflation near 2 per cent, reinforcing the view that inflation remains in check.”