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February 25, 2020 | #ShutDownCanada

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.

Virus. Oil sands crisis. Pipeline constipation. Pop-up FN blockades. Tumbling oil prices. Vanishing capital. A timorous federal government. Oy. The news lately has been dire.

Well, for all you people in Alberta, stranded by illegal protests, watching real estate equity fade, seeing energy jobs snuffed by the Forces of Greta, feeling alienated and wondering why people burning tires on railway lines are getting more attention than you, stop being so darn selfish. I mean, sheesh, there are people in Toronto who actually can’t afford a nice, seven-figure house.

Seriously, the divide is growing. Yawning. Covid-19’s impact on the price of crude is just the latest assault, as the black stuff heads south of fifty bucks, and Canadian oil drops through $29 – down 6% on Tuesday. Ouch. As global economic activity is impacted, energy consumption takes a hit, with Calgary and our oil patch along with it.

Now the FN protests have turned a structural problem into an intractable mess. They’re not about just a pipeline anymore. It’s land. Residential schools. Missing aboriginal women and girls. Unceded land. Treaty rights. A thousand years of injustice and colonialism. Plus climate change. Just as crazy Bernie has mobilized America’s young in favour of wealth redistribution, endless tax and more government control, so have indigenous activists in the land of maple co-opted the kids who want climate revolution. Behold the faces on the urban protest lines.

Meanwhile it looks like the virus will end up pushing Canadian mortgage rates into the ditch. As stocks swoon and viral fears mount, money slides into bonds, driving prices higher and yields lower. Look at the return on a five-year Canada bond – down below 1.2% on Tuesday.


Lenders fund fixed-rate mortgages in the bond market, so a drop there of this size pretty much guarantees the cost of a home loan may be dropping again. Says mortgage blogger-brokerguy Rob McLister: “There’s now no doubt that this global outbreak has the potential to take fixed rates down another 1/4 to 1/2 point, if not more.”

You bet. And remember that the mortgage stress test was recently diddled by the finance minister, under direct order from T2. This means the anticipated new rate of 4.89% (a drop from 5.19%) could turn into something even juicier for newbie borrowers, increasing their ability to more easily slip beneath the waves of debt.

Therefore get ready for a five-year fixed at 2.5%. And don’t be surprised if some hopped-up CU comes out with a buck-ninety-nine offering for the prime rutting season. Combined with the current paucity of listings in the GTA (as in Vancouver and Montreal), it means more price pressure. More bidders. More borrowing. More unaffordability.

By the way, nobody seems to be enjoying this. A Zillow/Ipsos poll just found 77% of GTA residents are concerned they can’t afford the real estate they want. Also 70% of sellers/owners fret that they can’t either – which is exactly why listings have taken a kick. When people figure they can’t afford to move, they don’t sell.

The same survey found 84% of people think Toronto’s in a bubble, at risk of correction. Compare that with just 61% in YVR or a dribble of 8% in Cowtown. Like I said, we’re drifting into two economic solitudes. Worse, the very concept of our nation is being shafted and disrespected by the #ShutDownCanada movement, the FN rebels and their dewey-eyed young altruistic, Twitter-fed disciples.

Well, let’s see what the virus news is in a week, a month and a season. So far it appears poised to exacerbate tensions in the land of the beaver. Low oil, lost investment, pipeline gridlock and environmental rebellion on one side. Cheap money, FOMO and exploding household debt on the other.

It’s interesting an entire Calgary downtown tower is now standing empty – 600,000 square feet, no tenants. (The overall commercial vacancy rate is a withering 30%). In 416 these days kids are paying $1,200 to $1,400 for a single square foot of space. A 500-foot condo can fetch $650,000, which is 50% more than a nice detached house on real dirt in Edmonton.

Outside the GTA on Tuesday activists shut down commuter train lines. On the west coast they blocked access to the Port of Vancouver. Elsewhere in BC, Ontario and Quebec roads and rails were rendered useless to traffic. And in Toronto there are apparently heavy casualties from the bidding wars.

Remember what this blog told you about being liquid and living quietly among the masses? Dancing with your dog? It’s time.

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February 25th, 2020

Posted In: The Greater Fool

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