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Posthaste: Canada's housing market headed for 'historic correction,' says RBC

·5 min read
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Good Morning!

Canada’s largest bank has downgraded its outlook for the housing market and now forecasts a “historic correction,” worse than any national decline seen in this country in the past 40 years.

Soaring inflation has put the Bank of Canada on a course of aggressive hikes that will take its policy rate to restrictive levels by the fall, wrote RBC assistant chief economist Robert Hogue in the report that came out Friday.

“This will send more buyers to the sidelines, especially in British Columbia and Ontario where affordability is extremely stretched,” he said.

RBC now expects home sales to fall nearly 23% this year and 15% next year, and national benchmark prices to drop more than 12% from peak to trough by the second quarter of 2023.

The 42% drop in home sales from the peak in early 2021 will exceed the declines seen in the past four national downturns, Hogue said. In 1981-82 and again in 1989-1990 sales fell 33%; they fell 38% in 2008-09 and 20% in 2016-2018.

The 12% decline in prices by early 2023 will be the steepest correction in the past five housing downturns, he said.

The housing correction first began to take hold when the Bank started to hike rates in March, but the 100-basis point-rise on July 13 — an increase that brought variable rates within sight of fixed rates —  will speed the cooling, Hogue said.

RBC expects the Bank’s policy rate to reach 3.25% by October — “a big bite for borrowers to swallow that will spoil or delay homeownership plans for many buyers.”

The most expensive provinces, Ontario and B.C., will be the epicentre of the correction, says Hogue. RBC sees home resales in British Columbia and Ontario falling 45% and 38% in 2022 and 2023, respectively, and prices falling more than 14% from quarterly peak to trough. The downturn will rival the decline Ontario saw in the early 1990s when sales fell 41% and prices 15%, but it’s not as bad as what B.C. went through in the early 1980s when sales fell 62% and prices 27%, said Hogue.

More affordable areas of the country should fare better. While sales are expected to fall more than 20% from record levels in every other province than Ontario and B.C., prices may prove more resilient. RBC expects prices to fall less than 3% in Alberta and Saskatchewan and between 5% and 8% in most of the other provinces by the first half of 2023.

In Quebec, RBC sees home sales falling 16.8% by the end of 2022 and down 6.1% in 2023. Prices are expected to end 2022 7.5% higher than the year before and but then decline 5.1% in 2023.

But while RBC economists are predicting a “historic correction,” they do not see a collapse in the housing market.

Rather, they argue that this downturn should be seen as a “welcome cooldown” after the two-year buying frenzy that put homeownership out of reach for many Canadians.

RBC expects the correction to wind up in the first half of 2023, though a steeper and longer downturn can’t be ruled out.

“Solid demographic fundamentals (including soaring immigration) and a low likelihood of overbuilding should keep the market from entering a death spiral,” wrote Hogue.

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THE HYDROGEN HIGHWAY Then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger gives the thumbs-up as he uses a hydrogen fuel pump to fill a Toyota fuel cell vehicle in Davis, California in 2004. Despite all the buzz, prototypes and pilot projects over the years the hydrogen push has failed to produce a stampede of buyers for these vehicles, let alone a proliferation of corner hydrogen fuel stores across North America. As revolutions go, the hydrogen revolution has paced at a slow burn, but that doesn’t mean change isn’t coming. The Financial Post’s Joe O’Connor has the story on the dream of the hydrogen highway. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

 

  • Francois-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry, appears before the standing committee on industry and technology, with Industry Department officials and Rogers executives appearing as witnesses

  • Pacific NorthWest Economic Region annual summit in Calgary; speakers include Ambassador to U.S. Kirsten Hillman, and U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen

  • Dominic LeBlanc, minister of intergovernmental affairs, infrastructure communities, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, minister of official languages and minister responsible for ACOA, and Andrew Furey, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, will hold a press conference following a meeting of the Atlantic growth strategy leadership committee

  • Earnings: Newmont, Celestica

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Canadian retail sales jumped 2.2% in May, beating economists’ expectations. Good news right? Well, not really. The gain was driven more by higher prices, especially for gas, than by higher volumes.

Moreover, a preliminary estimate from Statistics Canada suggests weakness to come with sales seen rising just 0.3% in June from the month before, which CIBC economist Katherine Judge says would represent a decline in volumes.

“Indeed, with consumption to shifting towards services, while inflation erodes consumer purchasing power, demand for discretionary goods will be under more pressure ahead,” she wrote.

 

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Today’s Posthaste was written by  Pamela Heaven (@pamheaven), with files from The Canadian Press, Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg.

Have a story idea, pitch, embargoed report, or a suggestion for this newsletter? Email us at posthaste@postmedia.com, or hit reply to send us a note.

Listen to Down to Business for in-depth discussions and insights into the latest in Canadian business, available wherever you get your podcasts. Check out the latest episode below:

 

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