'We are living through history': Manulife's Donald on Bank of Canada rate cut
The Bank of Canada followed the U.S. Federal Reserve’s lead on Wednesday and cut its benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points to 1.25 per cent.
Here’s a round-up of economists’ reactions to the move, and where it fits in a global push towards lower rates in face of the spread of COVID-19.
“We are living through history that will end up in textbooks and case studies as we analyze central bank policy, how effective it is, how quickly central banks should be reacting, and whether or not we look back and say: ‘They acted too late,’ ‘too early,’ or ‘right on time.’ Fifty basis points is a very strong message from the Bank of Canada. They are clearly concerned about downside risks. But, I suspect that this is in conjunction with globally-coordinated rate cuts.”
- Frances Donald, chief economist, Manulife Investment Management
“The Bank of Canada didn't wait to see the patient ailing before delivering a dose of preventative medicine, but where it goes from here is a matter of epidemiology rather than economics ... A reasonable first step, with the Bank signalling that if things get worse, they are prepared to do more. Like the rest of us, they will be watching for news on both the virus and the economy. But it’s reasonable to assume a further 25 [basis point] cut in April, with the rest of this year's story being dependent on which virus scenario plays out.”
- Avery Shenfeld, chief economist, CIBC Capital Markets
“The Bank left the door swinging wide open to further cuts, if need be… We suspect that given the heightened sensitivity to any bad news on that front, today's move is unlikely to be the last cut. One scenario could see the Bank trim rates by 25 basis points in each of its next two decisions (in April and then early June).”
- Doug Porter, chief economist, BMO Capital Markets
“It is important to remember that monetary policy is only one part of the overall response toolkit, and arguably the least effective given its relatively blunt nature. Most important in managing this sort of shock will be the fiscal response. We expect to see targeted measures to support those individuals and industries most affected by the virus and its attendant disruptions, with past experiences such as natural disasters providing a rough template. Recent statements by both the Prime Minister and Finance Minister suggest that such measures are forthcoming.”
- Brian DePratto, senior economist, TD Economics
“Given the likelihood that the number of COVID-19 cases will rise rapidly in Canada in the coming weeks, and that the incoming economic data – both domestically and internationally – will deteriorate, we expect the Bank to follow today’s cut with another 25 [basis point] reduction at the next meeting in April, when it updates its economic forecasts. Nevertheless, the bank’s concerns about the effects of substantially looser policy on the housing market mean that, at this stage, we are not convinced the bank will cut its policy rate below one per cent, as markets are currently pricing in.”
- Stephen Brown, senior Canada economist, Capital Economics