Feb 13, 2023
Higher interest rates pinch consumers, bolstering Bank of Canada pause
The Bank of Canada will be taking note of the January job surge: Chief economist
A majority of Canadians say they’ll be squeezed if the Bank of Canada holds borrowing costs at the current 15-year high, pointing to an impending slowdown in consumption.
Some 59 per cent of Canadians expect to be negatively impacted if the central bank keeps its benchmark interest rate at about 4.5 per cent this year, according to Nanos Research Group survey conducted for Bloomberg News. Another 14 per cent see a positive effect, while one in five say there will be no impact.
The data support the belief among policymakers that a pullback in consumer spending will drag economic growth to a crawl as heavily indebted households contend with higher mortgage and loan costs. Most analysts expect Canada to enter a technical recession at some point this year as interest payments crimp expenditures.
“Watch out for Canadians tightening their grip on the spending wallet for 2023,” Nik Nanos, founder of the firm, said by email. “Even a holding pattern for the current rate will have some sort of negative impact on their personal finances.”
Inflation, however, is still a greater concern than higher interest rates. Nearly 85 per cent of respondents said they’re more worried about the elevated costs of everyday goods like food and gas than borrowing costs — little changed from the middle of last year, when annual price gains peaked at 8.1 per cent.
Younger consumers were more likely to feel pinched, with 67 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 34 saying higher rates had a negative or somewhat negative effect. For those 55 and older, it’s only 48 per cent.
The Bank of Canada indicated last month it plans to hold borrowing costs and assess the lagged impact of one of the most aggressive increases to interest rates in its history. Policymakers say the pause is conditional on the economy and inflation evolving broadly in line with their forecasts, and warned of more hikes should the data surprise to the upside.
Last week, Statistics Canada reported the economy added 150,000 jobs, blowing past economists’ expectations, and raising doubts about when the economy will start slowing. That led swaps-market traders to increase bets on the central bank eventually being forced to hike rates again, and pushed any predictions of a potential cut off the table this year.
The Nanos poll of 1,054 Canadians was conducted online and by telephone between Jan. 27 and 30. It has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
In a separate survey, Statistics Canada said Monday that one in four Canadians polled between Oct. 21 and Dec. 4 say they’d be unable to cover an unexpected expense of $500, with more than a third reporting it was difficult for their households to meet financial needs over the last year.