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Mortgage rates are hitting multi-decade highs and pressuring family budgets in ways we haven’t seen since the 1980s.

Heavily leveraged borrowers are understandably anxious for rate relief. There’s probably more interest in when the Bank of Canada will cut interest rates than there has been in decades.

Robert McLister: This week’s lowest fixed and variable mortgage rates in Canada

No one truly knows where rates will be next year, but the bond market thinks it knows. Institutional traders continually buy and sell securities and derivatives based on their expectations of where the Bank of Canada’s key rate will land.

Those expectations show up in the CORRA market, and I’ll occasionally reference them in this column. The purpose is to give you a sense of where the big money on Bay Street thinks rates are going.

What is CORRA?

CORRA stands for Canadian Overnight Repo Rate Average, but ignore the jargon. Just know that CORRA has become Canada’s benchmark “risk-free” interest rate. Banks and institutions use it to price all kinds of loans and derivatives.

CORRA is calculated by the Bank of Canada and tracks the overnight rate. The overnight rate, of course, is the basis of the bank’s benchmark prime rate and virtually all variable mortgage rates.

What we’re interested in here is the forward outlook for CORRA – what’s known as the CORRA forecast curve. It’s based on market data exclusively compiled by CanDeal DNA, the leading provider of valuations for the Canadian fixed-income market.

I spoke with CanDeal DNA on Thursday to get its take on how the forecast curve can help borrowers.

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What it reflects

“The CORRA forecast curve mirror’s the market’s view of where rates could go in the future,” said Andre Craig, CanDeal DNA president. “Is it strictly predictive? No. Is it typically directionally correct? Yes.”

He added: “The further out you go, the more speculative it is.”

There are several technical differences between the CORRA forecast and other rate forecasting tools, such as overnight index swaps and forward rates in the Bankers’ Acceptance market. The differences relate to the lack of counterparty risk in its underlying derivatives, the transparency of CORRA’s calculation method, compounding and other esoteric mathematical stuff.

In plain English, it means CORRA tracks the Bank of Canada’s policy rate more closely.

It’s important to remember one thing, says Louise Brinkmann, head of CanDeal Benchmark Solutions: The CORRA forecast curve is much better at predicting rates at near-term Bank of Canada meetings than it is at projecting rates a few years out.

For example, whereas the market expectations of a bank rate hike were a coin flip before its last rate announcement, the CORRA forecast curve was “bang on in predicting a hike,” Ms. Brinkmann says.

By contrast, the range of outcomes is drastically wider a few years from now. By then, rates could be affected by significant changes in inflation, another crisis, recession, stagflation and so on – all of which could radically change the path of mortgage rates.

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What it says now

Here’s a look at where the market thinks rates are headed based on the CORRA forecast curve.

Note: These implied rates are rounded to the nearest 25 basis points, given the Bank of Canada changes rates in 25 bps increments. Also, these forecast data are not publicly available – they are currently exclusive to CanDeal’s institutional subscribers.

As we speak, the bond market – as reflected in the CORRA forecast curve – implies a better than 50-per-cent chance of one more hike in the next six months. Thereafter, traders are fully pricing in a Bank of Canada rate cut in the last half of 2024.

How to use this info, and how not to use it

A rough sense of the direction of interest rates is one small factor to consider when determining the optimal mortgage term.

If rates are expected to fall materially, that may improve one’s implied chances of paying less in a variable-rate or short term. If rates are expected to rise materially, that might improve one’s odds in a medium or longer fixed term.

Note: I said “one small factor.” That’s because there are many more determinants of optimal mortgage term selection. Examples include your comfort with risk, the gap between different rates, financial resources, plans to sell, employment situation, your potential need to refinance, your qualifications, the property and location and where we are in the business cycle.

Market rate expectations are also wrong – a lot. That can result in false hope for borrowers desperate for rate cuts.

After the U.S. banking crisis this past spring, the market was briefly expecting Bank of Canada cuts as soon as this summer. Those expectations have now been pushed back over a year, given stubbornly high core inflation and a resilient economy.

What the CORRA forecast curve does best is give you an objective baseline for possible rate direction, and the possible timing of rate hikes and cuts.

It tells you roughly where we’re at in the rate cycle, which has value for mortgage term selection. In most cases, for example, you don’t want to be locking in long-term after a big rate run-up, like we’ve had, and when the market is expecting 200-plus bps of rate cuts ahead – like it is.

The market’s outlook is also significantly more reliable than your typical talking head expert. Mainstream economists, for example, tend to follow the market expectations reflected in future CORRA rates. So you might as well just use the leading indicator itself.

Just don’t lean on it too much.

Rates were sourced from the Canadian Mortgage Rate Survey on August 3, 2023. Only providers advertising rates online and lending in at least nine provinces are included. Insured rates apply to those buying with less than a 20 per cent down payment or switching a pre-existing insured mortgage to a new lender. Uninsured rates apply to refinances and purchases over $1 million and may include applicable lender rate premiums. For providers whose rates vary by province, their highest rate is shown.

Robert McLister is an interest rate analyst, mortgage strategist and editor of You can follow him on Twitter at @RobMcLister.

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