Canada's housing market cools, trade gap narrows

Thu Nov 8, 2012 11:00am EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian housing starts fell more sharply than expected in October, according to data on Thursday that confirms a welcome slowing in the country's once-booming property market after the government repeatedly tightened mortgage rules.

Other data from Statistics Canada showed new home prices continued their modest rise in September while the trade deficit narrowed in that month on an oil-led export recovery.

Markets focused on the housing starts, which were down 8.9 percent from a year earlier as both single and multiple urban housing starts slumped, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp (CMHC) said.

The seasonally-adjusted annualized rate of housing starts was 204,107 units in October, down from 223,995 in September and 18.9 percent below the cyclical peak reached in April.

"The October move was the most decisive one yet that a housing correction is under way," said Jonathan Basile, director of economics at Credit Suisse Canada.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast starts would decline to 211,500 in October.

The report echoes a string of data that the Canadian housing market is cooling, but does not appear to be heading for a crash landing as happened in the United States.

Housing prices and construction roared higher in 2011 and the first half of 2012, aided by low interest rates. The market started slowing after the government tightened rules on mortgage lending in July for the fourth time since 2008 in a bid to prevent home buyers from taking on too much debt.

The most scrutinized aspect of the CMHC report was the sharp drop in starts of multiple-family units, as analysts look for clues that overbuilding in the Toronto condo market is waning.   Continued...

A builder works on the the roof of a new home under construction in the Montreal suburb of Brossard, August 10, 2010. REUTERS/Shaun Best