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Canada's banks appear to be optimistic that their mortgage growth won't slow much more in the near term, but they are also seeking to show that they can keep up their profits elsewhere.
Three of the six largest banks have reported their third-quarter earnings so far, giving some insights into their mortgage businesses.
Macquarie Securities analyst Jason Bilodeau notes that Royal Bank of Canada's residential mortgage book grew 1.2 per cent from the prior quarter, Bank of Nova Scotia's 0.7 per cent, and Bank of Montreal's 1.5 per cent. (On a year-over-year basis, growth was 4.1 per cent, 3.2 per cent and 8.4 per cent, respectively.)
Executives at Royal Bank, the country's largest mortgage lender and the first bank to report, emphasized the message that its mortgage business is doing fine, but that it is still working to demonstrate that it can make money in other areas, such as consumer investments.
"I think you have seen while the mortgage business has slowed as expected, given the regulatory and consumer change in preferences, I would highlight the agility of our business model as growth in consumer demographics shifts to deposits and investments…" CEO Dave McKay told analysts on a conference call.
"We feel good about our mortgage business," said chief administrative officer and CFO Janice Fukakusa. "Our volumes were up just over 4 per cent from a strong Q3 last year and in fact I think everyone knows that we got off to a slower start in the spring housing window because of the weather, but we saw strong June and July and actually our pipelines for the fourth quarter also look strong." (The third quarter for the banks ended July 31.)
RBC's Canadian residential mortgages, which account for 64 per cent of its retail lending portfolio, had net impaired loans of $377-million in the latest quarter, down from $414-million a year earlier.
Both RBC and Bank of Montreal saw the ratio of Canadian residential mortgages that were delinquent for 90 days or more ticked down to 0.27 per cent, from 0.34 per cent a year earlier, and 0.39 per cent two years earlier.
"The 3-per-cent growth that we've had in the mortgage business is in line with where the market is growing," Anatol von Hahn, Scotiabank's group head of Canadian banking, told analysts. "We had hoped that the market would grow a little bit faster than what it has. As you know, it started slow and in the couple of months it's picked up. But I think, looking forward, we can expect this type of growth."
He noted that Scotiabank is seeing more business in other areas such as personal loans, the auto business and credit cards.