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June 28, 2017 | The slither

A best-selling Canadian author of 14 books on economic trends, real estate, the financial crisis, personal finance strategies, taxation and politics. Nationally-known speaker and lecturer on macroeconomics, the housing market and investment techniques. He is a licensed Investment Advisor with a fee-based, no-commission Toronto-based practice serving clients across Canada.

Joe’s back. He asked us last week if he should keep his rock-bottom variable rate mortgage in place, or lock in. The rate (1.9%) was so silly-cheap it made sense to hang on, for the reasons explained. But he’s not convinced.

“CIBC offered me 3 years locked in at 2.29% if I want to switch to a fixed,” he says now, “or 4 years at 2.34%. Should I take one of those deals and run? Appreciate the insight.“ Well, Joe, if you’re going to write to a dodgy blog every week at ask the same question, then nail it down. And if you want another 12 months of serenity for an extra five lousy basis points, go for four.


Well, I guess rate anxiety is about to mount for everyone, after the events of Wednesday. The Canadian dollar rocketed a full cent higher and government bond yields swelled after our central bankers left no doubt what comes next. The market’s now giving 65-70% odds that the first (of several) rate hikes will take place on July 12th – way higher than the 39% probability given the event just a day earlier.

Why is this happening?

Simply, the era of emergency interest rates – here, in the US and around the world – is coming to an end. Yeah, it’s taken nine years to recover from the biggest, baddest, fugliest financial crisis since the 1930s, but central bankers think it’s time they turned off the tap to cheap money. The economy is strong enough to withstand it, they say. Besides, when it’s too easy to borrow, people borrow too much. Household debt’s off the charts and an ocean of liquidity has created asset bubbles – none bigger, scarier or more stuffed with risk than Canadian residential real estate.

Bank of Canada boss Stephen Poloz and one of his sidekicks (Lynn Patterson) were as clear as central bankers ever get when facing the media this week.

“Rates are of course extraordinarily low,” Poloz said, taking about how the bank slashed in 2015. “It does look as though those cuts have done their job… certainly we need to be at least considering that whole situation now that the excess capacity is being used up steadily.” Added Lynn: “Two years later, it is our view that these cuts have helped facilitate the economy’s adjustment to the oil price shock and that the economic drag from lower prices is largely behind us.”

Markets reacted fast. Bond prices lower, yields fatter. Dollar up. Preferreds popping. Now the eggheads at Bank of Montreal Economics think Poloz will add a quarter point in mid-July and another in January. That may not sound like a lot, but those two moves alone will double the Bank of Canada rate from 0.5% to a full 1%. It’ll add half a point to lines of credit, taking them from (in general) 3.2% to 3.7%, tack 50 basis points onto variable rate mortgages, while increasing the prime at chartered banks to 3%.

Scotiabank now goes one better. Rates will move three times, it says, in July, October and January.

And that’s just the start. Meanwhile the Fed has jumped US rates three times in six months, has one more increase on deck for later this year (confirmed yesterday) and three more planned for 2018. The Bank of England is also, despite Brexit and a broken government, anxious to raise rates, while the spend-happy European Central Bank is considering ending its massive stimulus.

Of course, the cost of money will not spike, surge or spiral higher. No drama. Instead, it’ll just slither up until one day three years from now you’re shocked at how that old 2.5% mortgage you’re renewing turned into one costing 4% or even 5%. Meanwhile the inverse relationship between the cost of money and the value of real estate will do some crazy things to urban housing markets. It’s inevitable. The reason crap houses now cost a million is not due to shadowy Chinese dudes, but rather because your daughter can borrow ten times her entry-level salary for less than 3%.

In order to get us back from the edge of deflationary disaster in 2008, that’s what guys like Poloz did. They knew the risk of creating an asset bubble was there, but the threat of a depression was worse. So they rolled the dice. It worked. We survived. And now, reality.

For the first time in seven years, there will be an increase. Maybe in July, maybe later. But get used to the idea. More will follow. Given what some real estate markets are already doing, the outcome will be predictable.

In some hoods, we’re there already.

Months of inventory start to pile up


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June 28th, 2017

Posted In: The Greater Fool

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