TORONTO – The Bank of Canada is likely to start raising its benchmark interest rate in July 2014, a full year before the U.S. Federal Reserve, BMO’s chief economist Douglas Porter said Wednesday.
Porter predicts the overnight rate will go up by half a percentage point, which could put upward pressure on the Canadian dollar until the U.S. raises its interest rates the following summer.
“If the currency gets too strong then the bank will likely stand back and won’t raise interest rates as much as what we’ve predicted,” Porter said following a speech he gave at the Toronto Region Board of Trade on Wednesday.
The strong Canadian dollar has been a major impediment to Ontario’s manufacturing sector, said Porter, combined with weaker demand for goods from the U.S. and fierce competition from China.
“While I think the (manufacturers) that have survived are very competitive, that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy ride from here on out,” said Porter.
“They likely need the combination of either a weaker Canadian dollar or a better U.S. economy to continue to thrive.”
Overall, Porter predicts the global economy is headed for a better year in 2014 on the back of growth in the United States and more stable conditions in Europe.
The U.S. economy will grow at a faster pace than Canada’s for the next few years, said Porter, helped by a comeback in house prices south of the border.
“For a number of years Canada was outpacing the U.S., and now we’re in a situation where there’s just a lot more pent-up demand in the U.S. than there is in Canada,” said Porter.
“Our consumer has tapped out, there’s not a lot of room for domestic spending to grow, and we think that the tables have turned and that’s going to be the story for the next number of years.”
The U.S. growth should help boost the economy north of the border, said Porter, and “put a floor under” commodity prices, but they’re unlikely to reach the peaks they have seen over the past years.