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The Bank of Canada’s latest comments on interest rates offer no hope to conservative investors and savers about better returns in the near term.

With the economy struggling to build momentum, the central bank essentially has stopped talking about getting rates back to more normal levels. If you were wondering whether the pullback in yields on bonds and guaranteed investment certificates since last fall will be reversed any time soon, you now have an answer.

The opportunity to lock in money at rates of 3 per cent and higher has mostly, but not completely, slipped away. Several months back, yields this high were available from a variety of alternative banks and credit unions on terms of one to five years. As of late April, the list had dwindled down to just a few players.

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Oaken Financial, reliably among the highest-yielding GIC issuers, offered 3 per cent on a five-year term as of late April. The one-year rate at Oaken was 2.8 per cent. EQ Bank, an Oaken rival among alternative GIC issuers, just announced a special rate of 2.65 per cent for a one-year term. EQ’s five-year rate was 2.8 per cent for five years.

Your best chance of finding yields of 3 per cent and higher is in a unique niche in Canadian personal finance – the online banks operated by credit unions based in Manitoba. Foremost in this group for GIC rates as of late April was Hubert Financial, owned by Sunova Credit Union. Hubert offered yields between 2.85 per cent for one year and 3.4 per cent for five years.

Other online banks run by Manitoba credit unions include AcceleRate Financial, which offered yields of 3.1 to 3.3 per cent on GICs with terms of three through five years, and Outlook Financial, which offered 3 per cent for four years and 3.15 per cent for five years.

You can check the latest on GIC rates on Cannex.com or on the Canadian High Interest Savings Bank Accounts website. There’s also a guide I put together a couple of years ago on alternative GIC issuers. You’ll find a thumbnail profile for many of the players and details on the deposit insurance they offer (the rate data are not current).

GIC rates are influenced by what’s happening in the bond market, as well as competitive pressures. The overall trend for yields is down, but a few issuers were still offering 3-per-cent rates as of recently. By the way, inflation has been running in the 2-per-cent range in recent months. A 3-per-cent GIC ain’t great, but it does help keep you ahead of the rising cost of living.

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