Canada banks cut short mortgage price war

Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:02pm EDT
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By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian banks have cut short a mortgage price war that had the lenders offering all-time low rates of 2.99 percent, as rising bond yields have boosted funding costs for the lenders.

Royal Bank of Canada was the first lender to raise rates, saying on Monday it will boost the rate on its cheapest four-year mortgage to 3.49 percent as of Thursday.

Toronto-Dominion Bank followed soon after, a move that was more surprising as TD had earlier pledged the deal would be available until Friday.

"It was generally cost of funds. Our long term rates have changed significantly since the offer was first introduced," said Farhaneh Haque, TD's director of mortgage advice.

U.S. 10-year Treasuries yielded 2.25 percent on Monday, up from 1.95 percent just three weeks ago. Canadian banks issue bonds to fund their mortgage loans.

Bank of Montreal touched off the battle in early March by cutting rates to rock-bottom levels, hoping to boost its lagging market share in the Canadian mortgage market. The bank had also offered the rate for a two-week window in January.

Generally known for their patience and conservatism, the price war has illustrated the degree to which the Canadian banks are willing to fight tooth-and-nail to gain mortgage growth and preserve market share in their key Canadian mortgage business.

Canada's five biggest lenders have become among the strongest in the world after escaping the 2008 financial crisis in good shape, while global rivals took massive writedowns and required bailouts.   Continued...

A Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) sign is seen in downtown Toronto, March 3, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch