Canadian home prices show only mild increase in April

Wed May 14, 2014 10:20am EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian resale home prices rose in April, but the start of the hotly anticipated spring selling season appeared milder than usual, the Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index showed on Wednesday.

The index, which measures price changes for repeat sales of single-family homes, showed home prices were up 0.5 percent from March, when month-on-month prices were flat.

Canada's housing market has risen strongly if unsteadily in the past five years, and economists have been waiting for the spring data to gauge whether it is cooling or heating up again.

"Though (April's) gain might appear robust, it must be said that apart from the recession in 2009, the composite index always advanced in April, the average monthly increase having been 0.9 percent," Teranet said in the report. "Last month's advance is indeed the third weakest for April, outside a recession, since 1999."

Prices were up 4.9 percent from a year earlier, an acceleration from March's 4.6 percent price gain.

Home prices have marched mostly higher since 2009, straining affordability, but mortgage rates have remained low, and have fallen in recent days, which could extend the market's strength.

Some economists have predicted the market will crash, but most have said they expect sales and new construction to level off in 2014 and 2015, when many see the Bank of Canada raising interest rates, dampening demand.

"From a fundamental perspective, we do not see much scope for prices to rise further as the housing market has shifted into lower gear compared to previous years," Mazen Issa, senior Canada macro strategist at TD Securities, said in a research note.

"We continue to see this year as benign for the housing market and expect prices to edge lower in 2015, when we expect the Bank of Canada to recommence tightening," he added.   Continued...

A home for sale is seen in Toronto, March 11, 2014. REUTERS/Aaron Harris