The Canadian economy is far more sensitive to the higher interest rates of the past few years and likely needs to see rates cut before the U.S. does. Expectations priced into forward markets put those odds at about 80 per cent as of Friday’s closing prices. The primary reason is how mortgages work in Canada compared to the U.S.

Most U.S. homeowners that have mortgages likely locked in generational-low yields during the early months of COVID. In Canada, those who locked in are now seeing mortgages reset at much higher yields and it’s beginning to pinch the monthly budget. Historically, there is some precedence for the Bank of Canada (BoC) to move rates up and down while the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) does not change rates at nearby meetings. It’s typically when something more unique to Canada impacts the economy more than the U.S.

The last time they cut rates independently of the FOMC was in 2014/2015 when oil prices were collapsing due to the fracking boom in the U.S., which negatively impacted Canada’s trade balances. They were also behind the FOMC in raising rates in 2017. This was largely due to expectations of U.S. tax policy under President Trump, unlocking animal spirits in the U.S. and much less so in Canada.

We can see over the past 25 years that the BoC has generally raised rates less and cut rates less owning to the added sensitivity of what the Canadian dollar does, as well as the importance of oil prices on the Canadian economy relative to the U.S. economy.

Citibank calculates an economic surprise index based on how analysts expect economic data to report compared to actual reported data. We have also added the target BoC and Fed funds rates. Recently, the economic surprises in Canada have been much more negative, highlighting that the Canadian economy is underperforming versus the U.S. economy. While this is not always a trigger for the BoC to move policy at all, it’s very likely a topic for the BoC to consider this week.

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The two main ledgers of money flows between the Canadian and U.S. dollar are the current account (income statement) and the capital account (balance sheet). The current account is largely based on money flows, which are based on trade dollars (what we net buy and sell to the world). This is where oil prices come into play. The contents of the capital account are investment dollars (foreigners making investments in Canada) – think stocks, bonds and infrastructure.

Currently, bond investments in Canada have significantly lower yields than in the U.S. So investors looking for yield will typically look elsewhere unless they see the potential for the Canadian dollar to improve.

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Since “Vaccine Monday” in November 2020, and since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, these two dynamics have combined to shift the Canadian dollar’s trading range. We continue to see the potential for stronger oil prices in the next few years offset by Canada generally needing a lower rate for bonds and bills keeping the Canadian dollar on the weaker side of the range, with a move above $1.41 (below 71 U.S. cents) before we see $1.25 (80 cents).

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