(Recasts with bank governor's comments on housing market)
By David Ljunggren and Julie Gordon
OTTAWA, June 16 (Reuters) - The Bank of Canada is starting to see signs that the country's red hot housing market is cooling down, although a return to a normality will take time, Governor Tiff Macklem said on Wednesday.
The sector surged in late 2020 and early 2021, with home prices escalating sharply amid investor activity and fear of missing out. The national average selling price fell 1.1% in May from April but was still up 38.4% from May 2020.
"You are starting to see some early signs of some slowing in the housing market. We are expecting supply to improve and demand to slow down, so we are expecting the housing market to come into better balance," Macklem said.
"But we do think it is going to take some time and it is something that we are watching closely," he told the Canadian Senate's banking committee.
Macklem reiterated that the central bank saw evidence people were buying houses with a view to selling them for a profit and said recent price jumps were not sustainable.
"Interest rates are unusually low, which means eventually there's more scope for them to go up," he said.
Last year, the central bank slashed its key interest rate to a record-low 0.25% and Macklem reiterated it would stay there at least until economic slack had been fully absorbed, which should be some time in the second half of 2022.
"The economic recovery is making good progress ... (but) a complete recovery will still take some time. The third wave of the virus has been a setback," he said.
The bank has seen some choppiness in growth in the second quarter of 2021 following a sharp economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of the year, he added. (Reporting by David Ljunggren and Julie Gordon; Editing by Peter Cooney and Richard Pullin)