Bank of Canada re-commits to rate freeze, bond purchases
Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem said negative interest rates remain an option, even if policy makers aren’t currently considering such a move.
“We are not actively discussing negative interest rates at this point but it’s in our toolkit and never say never,” Macklem said Thursday via videoconference, after a speech to the Global Risk Institute.
The comments show the central bank remains open to the possibility of further rate cuts, even though Macklem and other Bank of Canada officials in recent months have sought to downplay the benefits of moving rates into negative territory, as some other countries have done. The Bank of Canada’s current policy rate is at a record-low 0.25 per cent.
“He’s putting the concept back on the table if downside risks intensify,” Derek Holt, head of capital markets economics at Bank of Nova Scotia, said by email.
The Canadian dollar was little changed following the comments, with market reaction mitigated by Macklem’s acknowledgement that policy makers were not actively discussing the option, according to Holt. “The bar is still set high,” Holt said. “It would require pretty sharp downside risks to see negative rates.”
In 2015, the bank embraced the possibility in a strategic review of options. Earlier this year, then-governor Stephen Poloz dismissed such a move, and emphasized its disruptive effects. After replacing Poloz as governor in June, Macklem said cutting rates below zero risked creating distortions in the financial system.
The European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan are among central banks with sub-zero policy rates, a policy that has faced criticism from lenders worried about squeezing profit margins.