REFILE-Canada fiscal stimulus, recovery, may mark end of rate cuts
(Refiles to fix table formatting) By Leah Schnurr OTTAWA, March 23 (Reuters) - A stimulus budget from Canada's new Liberal government, combined with a modest recovery in oil and non-commodity exports, makes it likely the Bank of Canada's next move will be an interest rate rise rather than a cut. Economists said the C$29.4 billion ($22.25 billion) deficit for the coming fiscal year, equal to about 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, diminished but did not eliminate the likelihood of another rate cut. However, a poll of Canadian primary dealers - the institutions that deal directly with the Bank of Canada at debt auctions - showed they expect the central bank to hold steady at its next policy meeting on April 15 and through 2016. They forecast the next step will be a hike in late 2017 or in 2018. "The budget makes us even more confident that the Bank of Canada will be staying on hold," said Emanuella Enenajor, economist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch. After tightening policy as the country emerged from the financial crisis, the Bank of Canada cut rates twice last year as plunging oil prices pushed the economy into a shallow recession. Even before the budget, the oil price recovery and some encouraging economic data had traders reconsidering the likelihood of more easing, which would have pushed the main policy rate back to the post-crisis low of 0.25 percent. Recent data suggest growth will exceed the Bank of Canada's first-quarter forecast for 1 percent. Bright spots include a long-awaited rebound in manufacturing as currency hedges and contracts priced when the country's dollar was stronger expire. The implied probability of a rate cut this year has collapsed to 21 percent from 87 percent a little more than one month ago. In January, when the Bank of Canada released its last base-case forecasts, Governor Stephen Poloz said the central bank had not incorporated the "positive impact" of fiscal measures promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The amount of stimulus spending in Tuesday's budget, which came slightly above economists' forecasts, lowers the probability of further easing, said Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada. "They want stimulus, they're getting it on fiscal policy and I would suspect it was maybe more than what they were counting on," he said. Of the 10 out of 11 dealers polled, who gave their forecasts just one predicted that the next move will be a cut. Sebastien Lavoie, an economist with Laurentian Bank, said he thought the odds were still more in favor of a cut than a hike, pointing out that the growth effect of the stimulus budget would hardly be pronounced enough to rule out another cut. And even many economists predicting a hike were reluctant to completely rule out the possibility of another cut, given the volatility in oil and threats to the global economy. The budget's focus on providing more money to families and middle-income consumers could help alleviate concerns that Canadians have taken on too much debt after years of low rates. However, if the money is used to pay down debt rather than spent, it will mean less of a boost to growth than the government expects, Ferley said. "You don't get the lift to the economy but longer term it does provide the benefit of lowering those debt levels," he said. PRIMARY DEALER NEXT MOVE WHEN END 2016 END 2017 BofA-MERRILL LYNCH - - 0.50 0.50 BMO CAPITAL MARKETS HIKE Q3 2017 0.50 1.00 CASGRAIN & CO HIKE Q3 2017 0.50 1.00 CIBC HIKE Q2 2017 0.50 1.00 DESJARDINS SECURITIES HIKE Q4 2017 0.50 0.75 HSBC SECURITIES - - - - LAURENTIAN BNK SECUR CUT Q3 2016 0.25 0.25 NATIONAL BANK HIKE 2018 0.50 0.50 RBC CAPITAL MARKETS HIKE Q1 2017 0.50 1.75 SCOTIA CAPITAL HIKE Q3 2017 0.50 1.00 TORONTO-DOMINION BANK HIKE Q1 2018 0.50 0.50 MEDIAN HIKE Q3 2017 0.50 0.88 ($1 = 1.3213 Canadian dollars) (Additional reporting and polling by Fergal Smith in Toronto and Anu Bararia in Bengaluru; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)
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