The Bank of Canada kept its target overnight rate at 1 per cent this morning. In the statement accompanying the decision, the Bank forecast that the Canadian economy will gain momentum through the year following a weak second half in 2012, but slow growth through the first half of this year will limit real GDP growth to just 1.5 per cent in 2013 before rising to 2.8 in 2014. The Bank's revised forecast means that the economy is now projected to return to full capacity in mid-2015, rather than in 2014 as previously predicted. A more persistent output gap will keep downward pressure on inflation, which is now expected to gradually rise to the 2 per cent target rate by mid-2015. The Bank continued to sound a much more dovish note on future rate increases, noting that the considerable policy stimulus currently in place will likely remain appropriate for "a period of time, after which some modest withdrawal will likely be required."
With an expanding output gap and inflation trending well below its 2 per cent target, it is natural to ask if the next move by the Bank of Canada is a rate cut rather than the rate hike that almost all economists have penciled into their forecasts. However, unless the economy deteriorates much more or inflation trends much lower, the Bank is unlikely to lower interest rates since doing so would run counter to a year of loudly exhorting households to cut back on debt. Instead, the Bank will likely continue to use forward guidance about the need, or lack thereof, for future rate hikes in order to influence long-term rates and the Canadian dollar lower. The combined of effect of which should provide continued stimulus to the Canadian economy.