REFILE-Canada fiscal stimulus, recovery, may mark end of rate cuts

Wed Mar 23, 2016 4:27pm EDT
 
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(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)