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Bank of Montreal is wooing homebuyers with a variable mortgage rate with the biggest discount ever by a large Canadian bank, according to one market watcher.

The Toronto-based bank known for its spring mortgage specials is offering a five-year variable rate of 2.45 percent until the end of May -- 1 percentage point below its prime rate. The special marks the biggest widely advertised discount ever by Canada’s six biggest banks, RateSpy.com founder Robert McLister said.

Bank of Montreal’s offer beats discretionary rates of 2.75 percent for similar mortgages by other lenders including Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank and Bank of Nova Scotia, according to RateSpy.com. It’s also better than the advertised 2.49 percent variable rate with HSBC Holdings Plc’s Canadian lender, which has been undercutting the largest domestic bank on mortgages for about a year.

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“Bank mortgage growth is the slowest since 2001, yet there is serious and intensifying competition from players like HSBC and online brokers,” McLister said Tuesday in a phone interview. “BMO felt that they had to do something, clearly, to maintain a market share and grow in a slowing housing market.”

‘Competitive Environment’

The rate is “reflective of the competitive environment and is a great rate for customers seeking a variable mortgage,” Paul Gammal, a Bank of Montreal spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

Meanwhile, fixed mortgage rates have crept up in the past week as following a rise in bond yields, with typical discretionary rates of around 3.49 percent -- some 10 basis points higher than in January. Posted rates are higher still, with with Toronto-Dominion Bank pushing its five-year rate up 45 basis points to 5.59 percent April 25 in one of the biggest increases in years. Scotiabank moved today, lifting its rate 20 basis points to 5.34 percent.

“You’ve seen a deviation in funding costs between fixed and variable mortgages, so that explains a lot of it,” McLister said.

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